Telerehab has become an exceedingly-popular method for occupational and physical therapy treatment options. This session at WCI’s 2018 Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference explored the evolution of telerehab, including benefits and limitations
The panel included:
- Michelle Despres, PT, CEAS II, Vice President, National Product Leader, One Call
- Aideen Turner, MPT, Cert. MDT, CEAS, CEO, Virtual Physical Therapists, PLLC
As a whole, telehealth is growing dramatically. According to a recent study, there are over 200 telehealth networks with 3,500 service sites. Healthpopuli.com conducted another study in which 66% of Americans said they were willing to see a doctor over video, including 72% of parents with children under 18 and 72% of those aged 45-54.
Telerehabilitation is following this trend, using communication technology to assess, monitor, prevent, intervene, supervise, educate, consult and counsel. It can be used for disciplines like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, audiology and dietetics.
To start using telerehab, it is important to find a HIPAA-compliant internet-based real-time communication (iRTC) with video streaming located on private cloud. Security with encryption and firewalls is vital. Once you have this ability, the patient easily uploads an app that allows them to tap the area of the body with the pain symptom and pain level. From there, the clinician can assess. It is important to note that there is special certification that teaches the clinician to perform an effective evaluation without hands-on contact. It is important to obtain this training because it is very different than hands-on evaluating.
Through telerehab the emphasis is now on education and empowerment with an objective to reduce fear in the patient. What fear is preventing that person from getting better and returning to work? Is it fear of pain? Fear of reinjury?
There are several benefits to this approach, including convenience, reduction of transportation barriers and the ability to provide immediate, one-on-one care. It also provides easy text/e-mail communication between visits. The entire experience is centered around patient empowerment versus passive treatments.
There are also some limitations to note. This method is technology dependent, so the WiFi must be good. Also, manual contact is not available for assessment of tissues and tactile feedback. Finally, there are some state limitations concerning signed consent and licensure.
The benefits of telerehab are outweighing the limitations. Outcomes are showing a decrease in cost savings, number of visits and time away from work. And the telerehab industry is just getting started. Variations include apps that assist with pre-surgery prep, home exercise program support and wearable healthcare devices to measure range of motion, force and grip strength.