Top 5 Reasons to Start Using Telehealth Physical Therapy For Recovery
This blog about using telehealth physical therapy was written by Daniel Seidler, PT, MS from TelaPT
What is Telehealth Physical Therapy, and Why is it Useful?
In its simplest form, telehealth physical therapy (PT) is the meeting of a patient and a physical therapist via the use of technology. Simply put, it’s a video visit in a private room, and can be held anywhere at a patient’s convenience. This is also known as synchronous telehealth physical therapy.
For the last decade, telehealth has grown in popularity as a healthcare model. Today, more people have powerful computers or smartphones, high-speed internet access, and the technical savvy to connect remotely via video call.
This gives them the ability to use HIPAA compliant platforms like BetterTelehealth to receive medical services like physical therapy appointments. These virtual appointments take the place of in-person sessions without decreasing the quality of care. Telehealth isn’t a new concept, but it wasn’t until 2020 that it became mainstream. Telehealth – and options like TelaPT – make it simpler for patients to receive physical therapy treatment.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
Prior to 2020, the barriers to telehealth expansion were primarily pushback by providers. This was furthered by lack of insurers paying for telehealth interventions. As COVID-19 spread in early 2020, many Americans, particularly people with pre-existing medical conditions, were reluctant to visit hospitals and medical offices for needed care.
You may be one of these people. If so, what did you do? Did your physical therapy provider have an option ready? Were you able to begin or continue your care? Did your physical therapist suggest telehealth?
For many, telehealth and telemedicine options like TelaPT sprung to the rescue. Recently imposed state and local regulations and restrictions led to the widespread use of telehealth as a solution. For this reason, telehealth was one of the stars of 2020.
Most industry experts like to say that telehealth implementation leapt forward 5 years in just 3 short months.
In the first week of March, only 11,000 Medicare beneficiaries used telehealth. By the final week of April, that number had increased 15,354% and 1.7 million Americans with Medicare coverage were using it. Those numbers have ebbed and flowed since the spring of 2020, but it’s undeniable that telehealth is now here to stay – and people like you are using it to their advantage.
If you need physical therapy, it’s probably not something you’re excited about. That’s understandable, and your physical therapist is on your side.
Physical therapy requires time, energy, and personal resources that you could be channeling to other areas of your life. The good news is that telehealth physical therapy can facilitate and enhance your experience in many different ways.
The following are some of the benefits of telehealth, and five of the best reasons to use telehealth for your physical therapy care.
1. Safety during physical therapy sessions
During a pandemic, telehealth physical therapy is obviously safer than in-office care. Even if you do some of your visits remotely, you will decrease your exposure probability. With this, the chances of contracting any virus or illness decreases. That goes without saying, and puts many people like you at ease during each session.
On another note, practices like TelaPT are committed to the safety of their patients during every session.
For example, when caring for elderly or other high-risk patients, providers are often asked “Are you sure it’s safe? What if I fall? What if something in the home is dangerous?”
A physical therapist’s first priority is always safety.
They ensure that the patient’s environment and location for therapy are 100% safe and fall-proof. Anyone at risk for falling or other injuries does their session in a secure location. This may be the corner of a room with a chair to sit back on and something sturdy in front of them to avoid a fall. If necessary, physical therapists might require a caregiver be present to assist when necessary.
2. Access to physical therapy
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. Vaccines exist, but there’s no telling when life will return to normal for the vast majority of people. We all need to be safe and continue to care for physical ailments like pain, stiffness, and weakness. If you need physical therapy, you need access to your therapist.
If you’re reading this, you likely have a computer or smartphone and an internet connection. That’s all you need for world-class physical therapy via telehealth from a group like TelaPT.
You don’t need to go to your physical therapist’s office. There’s no need to sit in their waiting room. You don’t need to exercise alone while they treat another patient.
Telehealth physical therapy offers you a one-on-one session with your physical therapist from your home.
Another consideration is weather, even without the pandemic. Inclement weather often forces people to change plans, including rescheduling or canceling medical appointments. In cases of severe weather, in-office visits get canceled, but telehealth visits keep on rolling. There’s no need to cancel an appointment from your home if you’re going to be home anyway.
You may need some in-office physical therapy sessions, but more and more patients are doing some of their appointments via telehealth. Some patients are doing all of them that way. A physical therapist with a Doctorate degree is at your fingertips, right from your home, your office, or wherever it is most convenient for you. Connecting with them through a telehealth physical therapy option like TelaPT is just a click away.
3. Personal connection with your physical therapist
Studies show that a strong Therapeutic Alliance between patients and therapists can have a positive impact on patient outcomes.
One great and unexpected benefit of telehealth physical therapy is patients reporting that they feel they’re connecting more effectively with their therapist. The one-on-one nature of a telehealth session gives a patient and physical therapist each other’s undivided attention. There are no other patients in the room, no phones ringing, and no other interruptions to distract from the matter at hand.
For 30-45 minutes at a time, the sole focus of your therapist at TelaPT is YOU!
It’s an opportunity to share the issues that contribute to your physical discomfort or pain. You also get the chance to have your home workspace assessed and make adjustments.
These sessions allow patients to show how challenging it is to put a plate into a cabinet, or demonstrate going up and down stairs. Once your physical therapist sees your real life challenges, they can work with you to overcome them. Other benefits of this type of physical therapy?
- Improve your range of motion
- Increase strength
- Adopt specific strategies for your individual environment
This is how physical therapy is supposed to work – and that’s what providers strive for.
4. Convenience for patients
Anyone who has seen a dermatologist, a pediatrician, or a physical therapist using telehealth raves about the convenience.
Just like any other doctor or therapist encounter, there’s a lot more to it though. When you go to a clinic, you want to be able to park easily and find the office without getting lost. At your first telehealth visit you want to find the link and connect easily, have clear audio and video, and a stable internet connection so you’re not getting dropped multiple times during a visit. The desired outcomes are the same, even though accomplishing them looks very different.
How long is a physical therapy visit at your local clinic? That depends on your situation. Some patients need 3 sessions per week to treat severe conditions like low back pain. On average, each visit is roughly an hour long, but there is hidden time spent, too.
In addition to the time spent actively in each appointment, patients also need to consider commuting to and from home or work, getting ready to leave the home, and going through other routine aspects that also add length to sessions.
This often turns a 1-hour session into one that is double (or even triple) that amount of time. Building in extra time on occasion due to traffic or weather is understandable, but when it’s a common occurrence? It adds up.
By turning even one visit each week into a telehealth session, patients are able to save more time. The lack of “extra” time means that telehealth physical therapy visits are much shorter and more efficient. Another common patient report?
Shorter physical therapy sessions are more focused and productive and make it feel as though more was accomplished. Having patients like you feel this way is another of the added benefits of telehealth physical therapy.
5. Effectiveness of telehealth physical therapy
Treatment via telehealth began a few years ago in many areas. Patients and doctors were both concerned that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish the same things and get the same results without being in the same physical location. That’s a valid concern – and raises many questions.
“How are you going to massage me or stretch my hamstring through the internet?” The reality for a lot of patients is that hands-on therapy is a want, not necessarily a need. Many of the techniques used in the clinic can be taught to most patients. After this happens, they’re a lot more useful. Once you know how to use a massage stick or foam roller, you have a tool for life – even outside of physical therapy sessions.
Even pediatric physical therapists use telehealth to treat patients. Reports and personal stories of using this method show that telehealth is more effective than in-office or in-home treatment. This is because it allows parents to be involved and engaged during sessions and with physical therapists. Instead of therapists taking the lead and doing all of the work with patients, parents are learning the skills to care for and play with their young children from a true professional instructor. Like the use of tools, this is a valuable skill to carry into the future.
The same is true for patients with orthopedic conditions and injuries.
The most important aspects of every rehab program are enhanced movement with functional strength. The most effective way to achieve that is through active movement. Patients need to be in control of their movement to truly get better. A physical therapist can facilitate that with their knowledge, problem solving skills, and excellent communication.
Telehealth Physical Therapy is a Sensible Choice for All Patients
Telehealth is the perfect way for patients to find pain relief and healing long term. Physical therapists are experts in improving body mechanics and function. By using telehealth, they provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to relieve pain, stiffness, and weakness through active movement.
If you’re looking for a safe, accessible physical therapy provider, schedule a free consultation with TelaPT. Take advantage of the benefits of using telehealth for physical therapy, including saving time and energy traveling to a clinic and focused, engaging sessions with a licensed physical therapist.
During your treatment plan, you’ll benefit from many opportunities. These include:
- A one-on-one, personalized connection with your therapist
- Convenient, safe sessions conducted from the comfort of your home
- Real results
Ready to start using telehealth for physical therapy? Use the BetterPT clinic location tool to find a licensed physical therapist in your area.
Let BetterPT and TelaPT help set you on the path to recovery – starting today!
Daniel Seidler, PT, MS has been a Physical Therapist since graduating from Columbia University in 1996. He’s the owner of TelePT Services and TelaPT. Since 2018, Telehealth PT has been his passion and his mission. Throughout his career, Daniel has thrived as a healthcare innovator, entrepreneur, and executive.