Introducing… Telehealth!

Guest Authored by Dr. Shaun Tu, PT, DPT

While nothing will replace the quality of in-person physical therapy, the demands of modern society can make getting to the clinic a challenge. Thankfully, the advent of telehealth — live video chat based treatment — can help bridge this gap to provide physical therapy services to people who otherwise have difficulty accessing them. For families in rural areas lacking in high quality pediatric care, telehealth PT can be an effective way to receive treatment. Additionally, a child’s progress in physical therapy can be impacted by long absences (e.g. vacation). Telehealth PT gives families an option to check-in with their physical therapist to keep moving toward their child’s goals while enjoying their vacation.

Through this medium, physical therapists can provide patient education, therapeutic exercise, and ergonomic adjustment suggestions without the patient present in the room. Telehealth PT can be used to treat many children, including those with developmental, orthopedic, and neuromuscular conditions.

Common uses for telehealth in physical therapy include:

  • Quick screens to identify need for physical therapy services
  • Post-discharge checkups
  • Post-surgical monitoring and rehabilitation
  • Wheelchair and device positioning adjustments

While telehealth PT can be used to treat a wide variety of patients, it is not the best model for all. When considering whether a patient would be a good candidate for telehealth PT, physical therapists must weigh the following:

  • The complexity of the patient’s medical needs and injury history
  • Speech disorders that may impair communication between the physical therapist and patient or caregiver
  • Caregiver presence. The therapist’s recommendations are only as good as the caregiver’s ability to assist the child through different movements and positions as well as maneuver the camera device.

This screening process can be done over the phone prior to scheduling an in-clinic evaluation. The Physical Therapy team at Eyas Landing believe strongly that an evaluation must be conducted in-person as there is no replacement for hands-on assessment. Once the child’s movement and positioning needs are identified, families can move forward with telehealth PT for qualified children, as telehealth PT is not covered by all insurances and regulations vary state-by-state.