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Telehealth is an Option During Covid-19 Pandemic

June 19, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a historic shift in society, affecting health care, the economy, and politics on both a local and international scale. Countries have enforced everything from shelter-in-place orders to national lockdowns, and the term “social distancing” has become part of everyday conversation. 

Although daily lives have drastically changed, the pandemic has not stopped people from experiencing pain and injury. You may have been scheduled for an outpatient surgery before the pandemic hit that was subsequently postponed, or your neck or back may be hurting because of all the time you spend on the computer and phone for work at home. You may be feeling pain from exercising more frequently than previously to relieve stress, or you may have become more sedentary because of stay-at-home orders. This is all to say, physical therapy to treat these injuries, aches, and pains is still needed during a pandemic. In fact, physicians and rehabilitation professionals around the world have noted that, “Rehabilitation services are essential: They need to continue during a pandemic and after as they are an essential component of high-value care offered for individuals across the lifespan to optimise physical and cognitive functioning to reduce disability.”1

In the age of social distancing, stay at home orders, and business closures, it may be difficult to access the care you need without putting yourself or others at risk. However, physical therapists, physicians, and other healthcare professionals are now offering telehealth as an option for delivering care to patients. Telehealth, or the use of digital platforms to provide care and information to patients,2 has been previously offered on a smaller scale, but Covid-19 has rapidly expanded its use due to its safety and the easing of government regulations and insurance reimbursements. On April 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) started allowing physical therapists to bill Medicare Part B for telehealth visits, and most private insurance companies are also reimbursing for telehealth.

Research has already been conducted on the effectiveness of telehealth in physical therapy. Large studies have been conducted that have found telehealth to be efficient for helping patients improve their pain and function,3 while offering services at decreased costs.4 A recent study on the use of telehealth in patients recovering from total knee replacements found that patients’ pain decreased and their function increased by the end of therapy.5 Another study found that patients with chronic low back pain can effectively use telehealth to manage their pain in the long term.6 Other studies have found positive results from the use of telehealth to treat patients with pelvic floor dysfunction and patients recovering from a stroke.7, 8

The World Confederation for Physical Therapy has highlighted some of the benefits of using telehealth for patients, including:2

  • Increased ability to connect with various providers and specialists, regardless of where the providers are located
  • Decreased issues with dealing with parking, travel time, and waiting rooms at providers’ offices
  • Improved safety for people with limited mobility or illnesses, as they do not have to travel
  • Improved independence of patients to manage their own health and take control of their rehabilitation
  • Increased flexibility for patients to schedule therapy at times throughout the day
  • Decreased costs for travel, time away from work, and time away from family

Covid-19 will continue to affect our society for the coming months, but the healthcare industry is rapidly adapting to continue to provide high quality care to patients, especially by using telehealth. As noted by a group of researchers from New York University, “telemedicine has already proved to be an invaluable tool to not only divert an overwhelming volume of patients from the emergency rooms, but also to transform the work practices of thousands of providers, across multiple specialities.”9

Tips for Using Telehealth

  • You’ll need a device with a screen, camera, and microphone, so you can use your smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Your therapist will tell you how to access your telehealth appointment using a secure app or software.
  • Find a private space where you feel comfortable for your visit. Make sure you have room to move around – this is still PT, and movement is key!
  • Wear comfortable clothing that will allow your PT to see you move. Loose, baggy clothing makes it difficult for your PT to evaluate your movement and see how your joints are working.
  • Collect any equipment you have beforehand and let your PT know what you have, like resistance bands, yoga mats and blocks, foam rollers, and dumbbells.
  • Be ready to be creative with your PT and have fun!

About Water & Sports Physical Therapy

Water & Sports Physical Therapy is the only practice in San Diego that has our patented, state of the art, 3D infrared analysis system, which allows our doctors to identify strengths and weaknesses, develop a comprehensive and unique rehab program for each patient, assist with injury prevention and help improve sports performance.

Many insurance plans such as Aetna, United Healthcare, and Blue Cross are actually waiving co-pays for one-on-one virtual physical therapy! That means that you may be able to receive physical therapy from the comfort and safety of your own home for FREE. Call 858-488 3597 or email Info@WaterandSportsPT.com to check your benefits and set up your virtual/video appointment today!

References

  1. Bettger JP, Thoumi A, Marquevich V, et al. COVID-19: maintaining essential rehabilitation services across the care continuum. BMJ Global Health. 2020;5(5). doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2020-002670.
  2. Report of the WCPT/INPTRA Digital Physical Therapy Practice Task Force. World Confederation for Physical Therapy/International Network of Physiotherapy Regulatory Authorities; 2019. https://www.wcpt.org/sites/wcpt.org/files/files/wcptnews/REPORT OF THE WCPTINPTRA DIGITAL PHYSICAL THERAPY PRACTICE TASK FORCE.pdf. Accessed May 21, 2020.
  3. Cottrell MA, Galea OA, O’Leary SP, Hill AJ, Russell TG. Real-time telerehabilitation for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions is effective and comparable to standard practice: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Rehabilitation. 2016;31(5):625-638. doi:10.1177/0269215516645148.
  4. Tousignant M, Moffet H, Nadeau S, et al. Cost Analysis of In-Home Telerehabilitation for Post-Knee Arthroplasty. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2015;17(3). doi:10.2196/jmir.3844.
  5. Chughtai M, Kelly J, Newman J, et al. The Role of Virtual Rehabilitation in Total and Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty. The Journal of Knee Surgery. 2019;32(01):105-110. doi:10.1055/s-0038-1637018.
  6. Peterson S. Telerehabilitation booster sessions and remote patient monitoring in the management of chronic low back pain: A case series. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 2018;34(5):393-402. doi:10.1080/09593985.2017.1401190.
  7. Kinder J, Davenport T, Lee ACW. Telerehabilitation for Treating Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Journal of Womenʼs Health Physical Therapy. 2019;43(1):44-50. doi:10.1097/jwh.0000000000000120.
  8. Cramer SC, Dodakian L, Le V, et al. Efficacy of Home-Based Telerehabilitation vs In-Clinic Therapy for Adults After Stroke. JAMA Neurology. 2019;76(9):1079. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2019.1604.
  9. Mann DM, Chen J, Chunara R, Testa PA, Nov O. COVID-19 transforms health care through telemedicine: evidence from the field. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. 2020. doi:10.1093/jamia/ocaa072.

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