June 12, 2023

Virtual Physical Therapy: How PTs Attain Best Results Remotely

The world has gone digital, so what does that mean for physical therapists? Their occupation relies on a human touch (literally and figuratively!). But telehealth is popular and provides virtual physical therapy for individuals who cannot attend in-person sessions. So how can PTs effectively incorporate virtual care into their practice to benefit their patients and provide them with a more comprehensive treatment plan remotely? 

Fear not - it's not as technical as it sounds! When you’re knowledgeable in providing remote therapeutic monitoring safely and effectively, you and your patients can succeed in patient care.

It’s time to get techy, and here’s how: 

1. Evaluate HIPAA-Compliant Video Chats for PT Services 

Ensuring that physical therapy video chats adhere to HIPAA compliance regulations is crucial. It's all about keeping confidential, personal health information secure and exacting. Whether or not video chat is an option for your patient appointments, it's essential to know how to prepare and ensure a successful remote session. 

What questions should I answer when implementing HIPAA-compliant video chats?

Your top priority is to ensure that video chats with your patients are secure. This not only safeguards your patients' privacy and confidentiality but also instills confidence in them about your professionalism and the safety of their personal information.

Questions to consider when using video chats for virtual physical therapy visits:

What are the most effective scenarios for employing video chat for physical therapy? Possible options include remote consultations, home exercise program guidance, and rehabilitation support.

Should I offer a follow-up appointment? For patients who've already had an in-person assessment, video chat can be used for follow-up sessions. This helps monitor progress, gives guidance on assessing mobility, and answers any further questions the client might have.

How to bill for video chats? If you want to bill correctly for services provided during a video chat, use the correct RTM billing codes! Also, don't forget to support those codes with clinical documentation that validates the resources provided to patients. Lastly, pick a practice management system (PMS) that can handle RTM billing. (psst, that’s us!😉)

2. Create Customized Home Exercise Programs

As telehealth and virtual physical therapy consultations become more popular, physical therapists should consider utilizing remote home exercise programs (HEP). A well-designed HEP helps patients continue rehabilitation and progress outside traditional clinical settings.

It's challenging to accomplish everything you want during a 50-minute patient appointment. A home exercise program (HEP) can be instrumental in facilitating a client's recovery by providing targeted muscle-strengthening practices.

(In other words, it’s homework for the patient)

How do EMRs eliminate redundant work?  How do I design effective HEP programs for my patients?

A great way to support your patients and help them achieve their goals is to create engaging videos, guides, and how-to clips to provide detailed instruction and advice.

 Additionally, developing an interactive home exercise program tailored to each patient's needs can help keep them motivated and on track toward recovery. By incorporating these strategies into your practice, you can help your patients get better faster.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Create customized HEPs: A personalized physical therapy experience is always preferred by patients, even if not explicitly stated. HEPs can make all the difference. To improve the chances of success, look for a solution that offers an extensive video library or easy HEP upload access.
  •  Record your own videos: Perhaps you're utilizing an outdated instructional video, or the options aren't aligning with your ideas for this specific HEP. Recording new videos keeps your exercise fresh and current, enticing your clients! (FYI: PtEverywhere lets you create and customize videos directly through the virtual physical therapy app. You can easily upload videos from your phone, computer, or platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.)
  • Provide additional assets: Occasionally, videos fall short of conveying the complete guidance you want to provide to your patients during physical therapy. Including documentation, PDFs, and detailed protocols can make your HEP program more comprehensive. This is why allowing patients to access these can be a great way to enhance their experience.

3. Enable remote therapeutic monitoring

RPM may be cool, but RTM is the new kid on the block. Remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) is all about using tech to keep track of a patient's health status and progress during treatment. This involves collecting data on physical activity, vital signs, and how well they're following their exercises.

What are the essential elements to include in your RTM? 

Although myriad features can be integrated into your RTM, specific components can make or break your clinic's program. Consider including the following to ensure the success of your RTM program and consequently the virtual physical therapy your clinic provides.

  • Messaging: Effective communication is an absolute necessity for RTM. Being able to alert patients about their condition and having a platform for them to get in touch with you is critical. With reliable messaging services, such interaction is effortless. Moreover, since most people rely on their phones, having a PMS with an app is imperative.
  • Tracking Progress: Monitoring a patient's progress is critical for PTs to assess the effectiveness of treatment plans. From better physical function to reduced pain, tracking outcomes help optimize results. Activity logs may encompass exercise, goals, events, nutrition, and sleep.
  • Logging activity: Recording patients' movements facilitates the review of the effectiveness of physical therapy. Additionally, patients are held accountable for their progress and may benefit from seeing their growth. For instance, a health tracker that monitors daily subjective measures such as pain, sleep, energy, and water intake can give better insights into the patient’s care.

The Future Lies With Virtual Physical Therapy 

While physical therapists may not entirely shift to virtual care, incorporating it into their services will undoubtedly become increasingly common. Standing out as virtual physical therapy providers will require forward-thinking and offering patients care beyond the clinic setting.  Furthermore, virtual physical therapy is the perfect way to help patients finish the plan of care, leading to better patient outcomes and increasing clinic revenue. It’s a win-win!🙌 

Transitioning to a new system doesn't have to be challenging. While plenty of PMS tools can assist you, having one that provides a corresponding app and a patient portal that offers valid PT-to-patient communication elevates you above the competition.

To learn more about physical therapy virtual visits and care for 2023, book a demo or check out our media center for more therapy tips and tricks!