Prioritizing Patient Needs to Remove Barriers to to Physical Therapy
This blog about prioritizing patient needs and providing easy access to physical therapy care was written by Judith Nelson, PTA Northwell STARS Rehabilitation
After an injury or illness, long term success and recovery are the patient’s primary goals. What it takes to achieve these goals and the team of specialists along the way is sometimes lost.
For patients with a variety of musculoskeletal conditions hoping to regain strength and mobility, physical therapy should be part of the treatment plan.
Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are movement specialists. How? Both groups are specifically-trained in diagnosing and treating irregularities in range of motion and function.
There may seem to be a lot of factors making it difficult to schedule, attend, and complete physical therapy sessions. However, this doesn’t need to be true.
Private practices and hospital systems are focused on improving patient outcomes and expanding access to physical therapy. How is this done? By removing common barriers. The three main ways this is done include:
- Giving patients the flexibility to schedule in-person and/or Telehealth physical therapy appointments
- Utilizing online scheduling platforms that allow patients to schedule care when and where it’s most convenient for them
- Incorporating a team approach, giving patients more one-on-one time and individualized treatment plans
By utilizing a team approach, networks like Northwell STARS Rehabilitation can prioritize the patient’s needs from day one. This means physical therapists and physical therapy assistants spend more time working with patients in meaningful and efficient ways. Patient needs vary depending on illnesses and injuries, and services offered differ, too.
In addition to this, they constantly find new ways to offer their services to patients through the removal of barriers. Read on to find out more about the physical therapy team effort, different ways to access care, and what measures are taken to prioritize patient needs.
Your Physical Therapy Program is a Team Effort
This effort begins as soon as you choose a physical therapist or a clinic, but what does it mean?
The healthcare industry continues to grow and evolve, and in response, clinics transition to new methods for providing services. This means there are aspects of patient needs and overall care that require more than one individual providing treatment for patients.
Most patients are familiar with physical therapists and what they do. But physical therapy assistants are also crucial members of the team ensuring patient success. A physical therapy assistant, or PTA has many responsibilities within a clinic. Therefore, understanding exactly what they do makes it easier to work with – and trust – them.
5 Facts to Know About the Physical Therapy Assistant
Physical therapy assistants play a large role in a patient’s recovery from illness or injury. Here are five facts you may not know about the physical therapy assistant.
1. A PTA is on Team YOU!
These individuals work under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist. They collaborate with them to structure treatment plans for your return to activities and daily life. PTAs are involved in many aspects of care. They:
- Instruct and supervise exercise
- Perform manual techniques
- Use modalities (heat/ice/ultrasound) that are appropriate for you based on the physical therapist’s evaluation.
2. They’re in the Know!
PTAs graduate from accredited programs offered in colleges nationwide. They take a national board exam much like the PTs they work with. Subjects studied include strength, mobility, balance, assistive devices, wound healing, pediatrics, ergonomics, surgical protocols, and cardiac rehabilitation.
Physical therapists and PTAs are required to have yearly continuing education. This allows them to maintain licensure and stay up to date on current concepts. Many PTAs also hold certifications in ergonomics, strength and conditioning, and lymphedema specialties.
This is another aspect that makes a team approach the right call. Like with other areas of specialty in the medical field, PTAs chose their areas of focus. By working with a PTA, you can be paired with someone to meet your exact needs when necessary.
3. A PTA’s Horizons are Broad.
PTAs work in a variety of settings including nursing homes, private practices, hospitals, and schools. PTAs can provide home-care as well. They often treat a wide patient population from children to athletes to the elderly. They also may work with multiple therapists (in most settings) to assist with patient care when necessary. This versatility eliminates limitations when it comes to where, when, and how you receive your physical therapy care.
4. Effective Patient Care is Their Specialty
PTAs provide opportunities for patients to get quality one-on-one care. This is essential as the world becomes more demanding of a physical therapist’s time. Many physical therapists utilize a PTA to provide more schedule availability for evaluations and subsequent treatment. As the physical therapist performs their evaluation of a new patient, the PTA independently manages and supervises patients simultaneously. This means more focused rehabilitation time for the patient.
5. Patient Education is a Priority
A crucial role of the PTA is patient education. Patients often have many questions about their care including:
- What does this exercise do?
- Why do I still have pain?
- What can I do at home?
- What should I avoid?
Often patients want to know more about their diagnosis. This includes how to minimize the likelihood of re-injury, or halting further progression of their condition. PTAs are knowledgeable in a wide variety of diagnoses to assure your rehabilitation success.
Both physical therapists and PTAs work closely with you so that you are comfortable performing exercise and activities safely. The overall goal is to give patients like you knowledge and support. These factors are essential it comes to the health management and maintenance of your condition. A physical therapist is in charge of your overall care plan. However, a PTA is just as committed to helping you achieve your goals. This is done by assisting you through your sessions and answering questions.
Expanding Options to Meet Patient Needs When Receiving Physical Therapy
So you’ve got the right team ready to manage your case – but how do they work with you?
One of the most important aspects of utilizing a team approach to treat patients is finding the best ways to provide care in the first place. For some patients, this means going into clinics or hospitals each session. For others, this means relying on home visits. A new and exciting development in the physical therapy field is the use of Telehealth to treat patients.
No matter what your condition is, you have options.
Making physical therapy accessible to all patients is essential in removing barriers and prioritizing patient needs. The team approach to care makes it possible to ensure that a specialist is always available to treat you. Offering multiple options for appointment types opens the possibility of even using physical therapy as a treatment for many people.
Even the prevalence of COVID-19 didn’t limit access to physical therapy. It simply made clinics and professionals change their approach to treatment. Each of the options listed above are also found below.
- Different ways to schedule appointments
- Having ample staffing
- Offering different clinic or office hours
- Focusing on individual patient needs
Individually, each gives physical therapists and physical therapy assistants an advantage. But what is the advantage?
Adaptability by physical therapy professionals translates to better, higher quality care for patients.
Where to Turn for Easy Access to Physical Therapy Care
In many practices such as Northwell STARS – Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Services, a division of Northwell Health, the PT/PTA team is a cornerstone of their patient’s overall success. Physical therapy offices use this team approach to treat a broad spectrum of orthopedic and neurological conditions. To learn more, and to see if Northwell Health offers physical therapy services near you, use the BetterPT clinic location tool. This and the BetterPT mobile app provide current information about nearby physical therapy clinics, offerings like Telehealth (via the BetterTelehealth platform) and more assistance about choosing the right practice to visit.
A physical therapist leads patients like you through the recovery process. However, physical therapist Assistants are responsible for patient success, too. As a team, both parties have one singular focus: providing seamless delivery of physical therapy services to ensure patients recover.
Don’t wait; meet your physical therapy team today – in-clinic, at your home or virtually!
Judith Nelson is a licensed physical therapist assistant. She’s practiced since 2007, with experience in orthopedics and sports therapy. Judith has a clinical focus in ACL rehabilitation, arthritis, shoulder impingement, and postural awareness. She is a strong believer in patient education, as well as mentoring PTA students as a clinical instructor. She has taken multiple continuing education courses in treatment of athletes, biomechanics, and conditions of the shoulder and knee.