The Future of Telehealth in Physical Therapy

The Future of Telehealth in Physical Therapy

The Future of Telehealth in Physical Therapy

Years ago being able to video chat with your therapist wasn’t just impossible. It was unthinkable, but thanks to the fast pace with which the technology is developing this seems pretty insignificant to the changes we’re waiting to see. This was on its way before the pandemic, but what pandemic did was pushing everything into happening way faster.

We went from reading menus on paper to scanning QR codes. We went from gathering in large rooms to hold huge events, to streaming everything through a smartphone. Telehealth is reshaping the healthcare industry, and this is just the beginning. Keep in mind that if you’re not open-minded to adaptations you’ll be left behind quickly.

This article goes through everything you must know to be prepared as a PT business owner if you want to walk together with the new changes and benefit from what telehealth has to offer.

Now, let’s start elaborating on the recent updates and the changes telehealth is bringing to PT business owners.

Telehealth and the Pandemic

Receiving medical advice through online channels had always been seen with an eye of doubt until the pandemic stroke, making it a necessity. The hesitation of the people makes sense, but we have to put up with changes happening around us.

Regardless of what patients preferred, making the shift from offline to online practice was forced and needed. And it’s for good, trust us. According to the estimates made by the Medical Association (AMA), more than $1000 per patient are to be saved thanks to the use of telerehabilitation. The fact that the pandemic pushed the changes to happen faster it’s an advantage from which we need to learn.

Many patients have agreed it’s somewhat convenient for them to not have to get dressed up to meet the therapist because everything happens online. Surely, the shift won’t be immediate and not all will shift online, but a mix of both online and offline practices is expected even after the pandemic.

Patients' demands for a shift are not to be overlooked because your competition might act faster than you. 

Data on Telehealth Demand in the USA

There was an increase of 50% in the number of telehealth visits in 2020 compared to 2019 and another increase is expected on 2021 according to reports from CDC. You might consider this normal due to COVID-19 restrictions, but wait until you hear this:

Only 7% of patients are said to have chosen telehealth over one-to-one consultations due to the pandemic!

This implies that patients are moving towards telehealth by choice, not only because they’re obliged to. The relaxation of federal regulations has encouraged this increase, reimbursing physicians regardless of patients’ location and allowing virtual care to be accessible on a larger scale.

During a Committee held last June, Dr. Karen S. Rheuban, the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth Director admitted to having seen an increase of 9,000% in the use of telehealth which is pretty impressive.

How Convenient is Telehealth

There is a reason why patients opt-in for telehealth: convenience. Achieving patient satisfaction is not impossible, but it just might require a bit more work to experiment with different systems until you find the suitable one. We suggest you get access to a HIPAA-compliant platform since it’s a must for a quality voice and video-chatting experience.

Discussing the compatibility of telehealth, we have a study made by the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. The study relies on data gathered from 287 patients who had gone knee replacement surgery. The results were truly astounding! Those patients who had received instructions via a telehealth system counted less hospitalization time and were in a better state compared to those who followed the normal offline route of physical therapy.

Further studies have shown that the common reasons why patients are unable to attend physical therapy sessions are: long distance, lack of privacy during sessions and the lack of time. Telehealth is clearly the most convenient solution to tackle these issues.

What to Know About the Implementation of Telehealth in your Clinic?

Prompted by what we have said until now and added research you may conduct yourself should convince you to implement telehealth in your practice. If this is the case, there are a few things you must know before starting out:

  • Ensuring patients have privacy
  • Choosing safe and secure platforms
  • Comply with regulations (HIPAA, etc.) and laws set by the state
  • Your patients fully agree with the use of online channels and information exchange

You must go through all the data yourself to be aware of what you’re allowed to do and what not. Clarifying these points beforehand saves you the hassle of solving issues that might later arise with your patients or the government.

Reap the benefits of telehealth to work more conveniently with your patients, but keep in mind that it is important that you stick to guidelines set for patients’ rights and confidentiality such as The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and the APTA Code of Ethics.

Is Telehealth Legally Accepted Practice?

The short answer is: Yes. It is already considered legal to deliver physical therapy advice through telehealth tools. It’s up to you whether you want to take your practice wholly online or maintain a hybrid business model.

In order to stay on par with the law, make sure you’re aware of changes often done by the Code of Ethics and HIPAA regulations and laws. Look for things such as insurance requirements, HIPAA implementations, and understand state requirements. Direct access consideration legislation is important too. Stay aware of the updates.   

Check what types of visits are allowed to be conducted through telehealth, frequency limits, and duration. Different states have different policies. For example, in a few states, you might not be allowed to hold a full practice through telehealth without in-person meetings. Get your patient’s exact location and have a plan for emergency situations when you might need to send medical help at their home.

What is done through technology surely requires attention to detail and a backup plan in case something goes wrong. It is suggested that you sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with the telehealth service provider. Policy rules will keep you protected in case anything goes wrong. 

Why Your Practice Needs Telehealth

Telehealth was a go-to for every private practice owner. So, the chances are that you have already experienced the benefits it offers. It seemed as if when the pandemic shut the doors of PT clinics, it was to teach a lesson we all had to learn the hard way: telehealth can help grow your business!

We strong advocates of turning to telehealth for several reasons:

-Attract patients from different locations

-It allows you to increase the volume of patients

-Have fewer appointments canceled because of location.

-Provide longer feedback and analyses to your patients.

Telehealth service creates possibilities for a larger scope of patients to purchase your services thanks to the ease of access and the time needed to travel to your office. Removing the need to travel gets you clients from overseas. As long as you’re organized your revenue can skyrocket since the expenses lower.

Thanks to the ease of access, you’ll notice a lowering in the number of appointment cancellations. After implementing telehealth in your practice it won’t matter if a storm is forecasted and long traffic jams block the streets.

What’s Next for the Future of Telehealth?

Be excited because the time when you see changes and income numbers go up has come. One of the most important lessons learned during the pandemic was that: Telehealth shouldn't be seen as an option only for emergencies. Experts predict that there will be an increase of over 14.9% until 2026 of the telehealth market and if its implementations from hospitals, healthcare facilities, and private practice owners goes well, the rate would increase even more.

We are speaking here for more time saved for both therapists and patients, more efficient healthcare, and surely a higher patient outreach. There will be no more need for traveling or waiting in line because you can have the next therapy sessions from your bedroom with just a laptop.

Patients living in rural areas where there is no clinic and find traveling inconvenient won’t have this problem anymore. There are cost savings on both sides while improving the service quality.

While we’ve mentioned all the positive aspects of telehealth until now, it doesn’t mean that it can completely substitute in-person sessions. At the end, there is a good reason why it’s called physical therapy! However, we can’t deny that a hybrid practice that combines both offline and online care passes many hurdles, facilitates service delivery, and it's way more efficient.

Having seen cases where the implementation of telehealth has brought a positive outcome, we can say that it’s only a matter of time until the entire industry embraces this change. Many states are discussing what can be further improved in telehealth; allowing it, is no more to be discussed.

As more and more countries and clinics apply these changes, patients will get used to it, and physical therapists who are skeptical about making changes will need to step out of business or simply get to grips with a practice heading south!

You don’t need to be frightened about having to shift all your activities into telehealth, but getting to slowly learn what it takes to adapt is important. You need to make your patients ready for it.

Start with simple things, such as sending more updates or information through email and packaging your feedback or analysis into a video recording or PDF material. To make sure you are doing it right, and not ruining anything, let us help you set up your online presence by getting in touch with us today.

Do you want to supercharge your physical therapy marketing? Download our Free Evergreen Marketing Blueprint for Physical Therapists and start creating long-term assets that generate new patient bookings for years to come.

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