In the age of COVID-19, healthcare providers are looking for new ways to reach injured workers and help support their recovery goals. Healthcare providers are relying on telerehabilitation (or e-rehabilitation or virtual PT) to deliver care. Telerehab means using real-time, two-way electronic audio and visual communication to assess and treat a patient.
Telerehab has many benefits. It increases patient engagement and improves compliance due to the increased one-on-one time between the therapist and the patient. Overall, patients in telerehab miss fewer therapy sessions than those in traditional therapy. Telerehab is lower in cost, as well, due to reduced transportation expenses and less time spent traveling to and from an outpatient clinic from work or home. Indeed, the results are clear: telerehab leads to successful outcomes and high patient satisfaction.
However, some claims professionals have criticisms of telerehab based on their own beliefs, experiences, or stories they’ve heard from colleagues. Let’s take a look at some of these beliefs and how they can be overcome.
Myth #1: “Some patients aren’t a good fit.”
It’s true that some patients might not be an ideal fit for telerehab, whether it’s because of their specific injury or their limitations with technology. But even less-than-ideal patients can gain by doing something rather than nothing. Telerehab can help keep patients engaged and prevent regression—putting them on the path to progress. In addition, telerehab allows for open, regular communication between a therapist and patient, helping the injured worker to avoid lethargy, depression, or other psychological complications.
Myth #2: “It’s just streaming video exercises.”
Telerehab is therapy—not just exercises. There is a clear difference between general exercise for fitness and therapeutic exercise. With telerehab, patients are prescribed specific therapeutic exercises tailored to their individual needs with the goal to aid their recovery from an injury or impairment. Perhaps most importantly, in telerehab, therapists continually monitor patients’ progress and assess their improvements toward meeting specific return to work goals.
Myth #3: “I don’t trust it. Where’s the follow up?”
Monitoring and compliance may be one of the areas in which telerehab exceeds even traditional, in-person therapy. Consider the outpatient model of treatment: the therapist might assign home exercises, yet there is no follow up or feedback until the next visit. At that visit, the therapist will need to ask the injured worker to demonstrate the assigned exercises to assess how consistently they performed their home program.
With telerehab, demonstrations can happen in real time. Depending on the platform, therapists can even tell whether a patient has logged in to do the exercises, and for how long. Auto prompts are sent to the patient from the platform to remind them of their exercises. If they still don’t log in and do their exercises, the therapist is alerted and can IM or text to connect with the patient.
Myth #4: “It’s like an injured worker seeing a physician assistant instead of the physician.”
The majority of telerehab healthcare providers are licensed occupational and physical therapists, with some providers being physical therapy assistants or certified occupational therapy assistants. With telerehab, the therapist spends more one-on-one time with the injured worker than in traditional therapy. This one-on-one, undivided attention improves patient engagement and compliance. And remember: research finds that telerehab compels the injured worker to be an active participant instead of a passive recipient in their care, leading to greater patient satisfaction and long-term success.