Orthopedic physical therapy focuses on treating conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, including joints, muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. Video visits can be used to guide patients through strengthening, flexibility, balance, and functional mobility exercises to recover from surgery or address chronic conditions.
Remote physical therapy is a particularly attractive option for older patients with conditions that affect their mobility and physical function, including arthritis, osteoporosis, hip and joint replacement, and balance disorders. Video visits reduce the burden on both patients and caregivers, improving compliance with treatment plans.
Physical therapy is critically important for patients who have neurological diseases or injuries. With remote physical therapy following a neurological injury, patients can preserve or regain many functions, improve their ability to perform activities and enjoy independence without the cost and inconvenience of in-office care.
Using telemedicine for routine follow-up and monitoring visits is not only more efficient for providers and patients, but it also increases the chances that people will complete their entire treatment plan, reducing missed appointments and improving patient outcomes.
Patients with chronic conditions may require a short period of intensive therapy, followed by long-term care to sustain wellness. The use of telemedicine software makes it easier and less expensive for patients to maintain control over their health.
Physical therapy is often necessary following orthopedic surgeries and other hospitalizations. Video visits eliminate the need for travel during a time when patients may have limited mobility or require the use of medications that shouldn’t be used while driving.
Physical therapists in sports medicine use telemedicine software to facilitate the diagnoses, treatment, and prevention of sports-related injuries both on and off the field.
Missed appointments, failure to adhere to treatment plans and long gaps between visits all contribute to unfavorable outcomes for physical therapy patients. Online visits make it easier for patients to stay engaged in their treatment, receive prescribed care, and follow-up as instructed.
Telemedicine visits take less time than in-office ones and reduce the time spent on administrative tasks that don’t add value for the patient. With video visits, physical therapists spend more time directly interacting with patients and they have the option to see more patients each day. These efficiency gains facilitate revenue growth without any additional administrative overhead.
Because physical therapy visits tend to be more lengthy than typical medical encounters, no-shows and cancellations are a serious issue for physical therapy practices. Telemedicine is so convenient that patients are less likely to skip an appointment due to transportation, work, or child-care issues.
The ability to see patients without the need to be in the office gives physical therapists an unprecedented degree of flexibility. Providers can work from home or while traveling and extend hours into the evenings or weekends, improving work/life balance.
Multiple studies reflect the fact that patients are happy with the telemedicine experience. In fact, the availability of video visits is quickly becoming a deciding factor when selecting healthcare providers of all types.
By eliminating barriers to care, telemedicine improves outcomes for physical therapy patients. They get the consistent care which is so necessary for physical therapy treatment.
Telemedicine eliminates proximity as a factor for patients choosing a PT provider, expanding the number of options and the reach of your practice, especially for people in areas where there are too few physical therapy providers to meet the demand.
As a bonus, your in-office operation will run more efficiently, improving the experience of patients who don’t even use telemedicine.
Studies show that 97% of patients who are seen remotely by their provider feel they receive the same quality of care as an in-person visit. Additional research has validated the effectiveness of telemedicine. There is no detectable difference in the ability of a provider to gather necessary information, make an accurate diagnosis, and develop a plan for treatment. In short, video visits result in the same desired clinical outcomes as in-person care when used appropriately.
In general, telemedicine software is designed to be as easy to use as other familiar modern applications. Patients and providers with a basic familiarity with online apps should be able to quickly figure out how to use a telehealth application.
Each state decides if they want to mandate reimbursement for telemedicine visits. If you’re among the 30 states that do mandate it, you’ll be reimbursed at the same level as an in-office visit. (Check our state map to see if you live in a state with a parity law.)
In addition, many insurers recognize the value of telemedicine and will reimburse for remote visits even if the state does not require them to do so.
Because patient information and video are being transmitted, telemedicine software is required to be HIPAA-compliant. Any solution you consider should be encrypted to protect patient confidentiality. Consumer grade applications like Skype and FaceTime are not appropriate for clinical applications.
This is determined on a state-by-state basis. For example, in California and many other states, it is not necessary for the doctor/patient relationship to be established in-person.
Here’s what to look for if you’re shopping for a telehealth solution
In order to be reimbursed for telehealth services, the remote interaction must contain real-time audio and video. Additionally, the video quality should reflect that of an in-person interaction and avoid frequent freezes or choppiness.
Because sensitive patient information is being exchanged, any telehealth software you decide to purchase must be secure and HIPAA-compliant. Skype and FaceTime, for example, are unsecure video conferencing platforms and should therefore never be used for patient appointments.
For record-keeping purposes and in the unlikely event an audit is requested, telemedicine software needs to provide a record of every interaction, including patient, payer and provider details.
Even if telemedicine reimbursement is mandated by a state, certain insurance plans may still be exempt. Selecting telemedicine software that performs eligibility checks is a great way to lessen the burden on office staff.
The best way to ensure telemedicine software adoption will be simple for you and your staff is to find a product that integrates directly with your existing EHR.
Every state has specific regulations surrounding the practice of telemedicine. By finding a product that offers compliance support, doctors don’t have to worry about researching their state’s telehealth regulations.