While demonstrating teleMOVEMENT’s ability to deliver physical therapy services in a telehealth environment at a recent health conference, I heard the comment “this approach is awful” quietly whispered in the audience. It’s not the first time I have gotten this feedback and it certainly will not be the last but I love the possibilities it opens. It provides our team with the opportunity to open the dialogue about telehealth and our thoughts on how it can help increase services to our communities and bring exposure to physical therapy.
While communication technology is allowing physical therapists to be accessible to patients for specialty care when it may not otherwise be immediately available, not everyone is celebrating the emergence of telehealth and online health management solutions. While these healthcare delivery mediums have increased convenience by not having to physically visit a physical therapist’s office many are concerned that it will replace in-person care. Let me clearly state, this is not the intent!
A huge consideration here is that only 7-8% of the population that could benefit from physical therapy services obtains that care. If new technology can bring help people who have challenges with time, geography, transportation, traffic, etc… obtain or initiate care, it’s a win. Can you imagine a time when you strain your back and instead of waiting 2 weeks to get into your primary care doctor you use the internet, log into teleMOVEMENT, and either go through our algorithm for some management strategies or connect online with a physical therapist that will give you some immediate strategies to manage your pain and get you back in action in a couple days? This exists! And at minimum can provide exposure to physical therapy, a low cost, conservative treatment that will start your road to recovery.
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article on the State of Telehealth and identified three primary telehealth trends. The first being that telehealth is evolving from a medium that started initially as a means to improve access to care yet also is increasing convenience and will hopefully eventually lower healthcare costs. Secondly, we are seeing the migration from services for acute care conditions to now seeing telehealth grow to address more chronic conditions. The last significant trend identified is that telehealth is now not just being utilized in hospitals, facilities and medical offices but in patient homes or on mobile devices.
Overall, as this medium of care evolves it appears multiple positives related to access, convenience and cost control will be available to our patients, practices and providers. Continuing to follow solid evidence-based care guidelines, a responsible and thoughtful approach to patient selection for this medium of care delivery and continued focus on the patient experience should ensure success. It won’t be for everyone or every condition…. but for many it will be life-changing, which is a far cry from awful!
Kelly Sanders, President teleMOVEMENT & Team Movement for Life
Dorsey ER, Topol, EJ. State of Telehealth. N Engl J Med. 2016;375;2:154-160.