HIPAA Compliant Physical Therapy Telehealth
Most physical therapists will agree that the work that happens in an in-person clinical setting is only one aspect of supporting the patient’s long-term health and well-being. Real, long-term improvement, particularly for chronic conditions, requires a holistic, ongoing therapy approach so that patients can thrive well into their future.
Physical therapy telehealth is a highly effective way to expand the scope of your practice beyond the in-person clinical setting to ensure that your patients have access to ongoing, high-quality care regardless of their condition or location. With access to physical therapy further restricted by Covid-19 stay-at-home orders, physical therapists are realizing that integrating physical therapy telehealth into their practice can improve patients’ lives and drive business success.
Physical therapy will likely always require some degree of manual, in-person intervention. But it’s important for therapists to consider how telehealth fits into their plan for the future, even if that means offering physical therapy telehealth in tandem with in-person services moving forward.
How Physical Therapy Telehealth can improve your practice
Physical therapy telehealth, using a flexible, cloud-based and compliant platform like HIPAA Video, can improve your practice by increasing accessibility to patients with a variety of conditions, simplifying your schedule and workflows, and improving patient relationships in ways that weren’t possible before.
Easily schedule frequent check-ins with patients
Regular communication between physical therapists and patients is vital to patient improvement in the short and long-term. Physical therapy telehealth is an ideal way for you to stay closely connected to patients and stay up to speed on their progress, even if the initial visit needs to be in person. Therapists can use physical therapy telehealth to communicate frequently with patients, monitor their improvement and perform speedy assessments. Therapists can also use frequent check ins to perform home safety evaluations and mobility screenings to help prevent the readmission of patients to hospitals. An easy-to-use physical therapy telehealth platform like HIPAA Video provides simple calendar scheduling tools to help streamline setting up these check-ins.
Be sure patients are sticking to their home exercise programs (HEPs)
Home exercise programs (HEPs) are one of the most important parts of the therapeutic journey. While you can put all of your energy into putting together a great HEP for a patient, it only really works if the patient actually practices the HEP regularly. Physical therapy telehealth is a dream come true for therapists to make sure patients are sticking to their HEPs. Using physical therapy telehealth for a more involved HEP process is one of the ideal ways of streamlining patient recovery. Using the HIPAA Video physical therapy telehealth platform, with its distraction-free, high-quality video interface, will help drive the accuracy of HEP assessments and create a more on-demand therapist who can be available for any questions related to HEPs.
Increase patient access to care
Physical therapy patients face a number of problems that can prevent them from accessing the care they need. Injuries that result in mobility issues, particularly among the elderly, often prevent patients from going into clinical settings. Commuting distances for those in rural areas is also a barrier to accessing care. Physical therapy telehealth removes these barriers for these patients by bringing the therapy experience to them. Also, if you are a therapist who is highly specialized, physical therapy telehealth allows you to connect with distant patients who need the specialized care that only you can offer. HIPAA Video, with a simple-to-adopt physical therapy telehealth platform provides patients who have accessibility issues with a viable remote solution.
Expand into preventative and wellness services
Many people turn to physical therapy to address injuries after they’ve happened. But the prevention of injuries can be far more important to overall wellness and patients are quickly beginning to embrace this idea. Physical therapy telehealth is an ideal way to work with patients on preventative and wellness services on a frequent basis that is cost effective. Therapists can use physical therapy telehealth to offer a range of services that don’t require in-person interaction including identifying and correcting risk factors for injury, ergonomic assessments, pre-surgery therapies or “prehab”, creating programs for patients to build strength, flexibility, balance and endurance and much more.
Provide post-operative care easily
Patients who undergo surgery depend on their physical therapists to ensure a full recovery and help prevent further injuries. Physical therapy telehealth allows therapists to communicate frequently with post-operative patients, particularly in the days immediately following surgery where mobility might be an issue. Using a physical therapy telehealth platform like HIPAA Video, therapists can also quickly upload post-operative reports and other relevant documents to be used in discussions. Even as patients head into the later stages of their recovery, physical therapy telehealth makes it simple to set up ongoing communication, recovery assessments and review the practice of HEPs.
Easily consult with other providers
Physical therapy telehealth is a great way for physical therapists to consult and collaborate with other providers to manage a patient’s intervention. By using physical therapy telehealth, providers who work across different specialties such as sports trainers, occupational therapists, and doctors don’t need to be in the same room anymore to provide care for the patient, which creates a far more patient-centered dynamic. Adopting a fully compliant platform like HIPAA Video ensures that physical therapists are providing their patients with the best possible care by gathering inputs and education across specialties to support their well being.
Include at-home caregivers into therapy regimens
An estimated 53 million people are informal caregivers in the United States and they make up an important part of patient intervention teams. Physical therapy telehealth allows therapists to partner with one or more at-home caregivers and observe the day-to-day interactions between patients and caregivers to provide feedback, instruction on therapeutic techniques, solve problems in real time and optimize daily habits and routines. For geriatric populations who fear falling, therapists can make recommendations to caregivers on how to enact preventative measures.
Dispatch valuable educational resource materials efficiently
Physical therapy is as much about educating patients on prevention as it is about providing immediate relief. Physical therapy telehealth allows therapists to make a wide variety of informative, prevention-related materials in written, audio and video form, readily available to patients and caregivers. HIPAA Video’s platform, which includes robust chat functionalities, screen sharing and session recording capabilities, allows you to give patients always-on access to important materials, whether it’s the latest guidance on new therapy modalities, demonstrations of movement techniques or even valuable tips from sessions.
Integrate physical therapy assistants (PTAs) into workflows
Physical therapy telehealth allows therapists to either deploy their PTAs to facilitate sessions on-site while they participate in sessions remotely or have PTAs facilitate remotely nas well. (depending on state regulations). HIPAA Video makes it simple for therapists to add PTAs to workflows so that they can open up more of their schedules to patients who need specialized care without disrupting their practice operations.
Gain the freedom to practice from anywhere without traveling
With the introduction of the PT compact, physical therapists can freely practice remotely across state lines using physical therapy telehealth, provided that their state has opted into the compact. Therapists no longer need to restrict where they live based on proximity to patients and can choose to work from any preferred environment in the country. This also helps highly specialized physical therapists make their services available to vulnerable patients regardless of their location.
Decrease office overhead costs
For many therapists, office rental costs have made up a large chunk of their overhead expenses, particularly in larger cities. Physical therapy telehealth gives you the option of reducing the use of an office, which can help reduce this monthly expenditure. This can greatly boost profitability while also giving you the comfort of working from your own home or preferred space. HIPAA Video also gives therapists easy options to add office assistants to office workflows, decreasing the need for in-person, front desk support, further driving down overhead costs.
Improve practice efficiency
Physical therapy telehealth shouldn’t complicate the day-to-day operations of your practice. The right telehealth platform will provide easy-to-use features that seamlessly integrate into your existing workflows and software tools. HIPAA Video integrates (via API) with EMR/EHR (Electronic Medical Records) and popular practice management software so you can add HIPAA compliant telehealth easily to your existing office management platform(s).
Reduce scheduling mishaps and no-shows
You’ve been there. You have a patient in your calendar for Thursday but his calendar has the appointment for Wednesday. Now the patient has no alternative time and you have to scramble to fill up the empty slot. HIPAA Video helps you avoid these headaches by providing integrated calendar tools that help with accurate scheduling and automatic appointment reminders, both of which reduce no-shows by up to 30%.
Adhere to state-mandated Covid-19 social distancing guidelines
Many states now have social distancing rules in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic which make it difficult to see patients in a physical office. Physical therapy telehealth is a reliable alternative that allows you to continue seeing patients while adhering to these state mandates. HIPAA Video’s platform is cloud-based and easy to use meaning you can get up and running quickly with your clients in a way that’s compliant with state-mandated guidelines.
What are the benefits of physical therapy telehealth for patients?
Physical therapy patients are already dealing with adjusting to life as they heal from injuries, surgeries and ongoing chronic issues. The last thing you want to do is add complexity to their lives by deciding to use a complicated physical therapy telehealth platform. HIPAA Video provides benefits to physical therapy patients by removing any additional burdens for the patient that might get in the way of progress through a platform that everyone, no matter how tech savvy, will find easy to use.
Greater access to physical therapy
Physical therapy telehealth can be a dream come true for patients in less populated areas and/or who suffer from mobility issues who are without access to the services they need. Physical therapy telehealth opens up access to intervention services in general but also to highly specialized therapists as well. Patients can also be in the comfort of their own home or any other environment they choose, so long as they have their preferred device handy.
Protection during the Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced patients to balance their therapy needs with the need to stay safe and socially distant. HIPAA Video’s cloud-based physical therapy telehealth platform provides a simple interface that requires no training or downloads and works with any device and operating system, so patients can easily transition to physical therapy telehealth without any headaches.
Avoid confusion related to home exercise programs (HEPs)
Physical therapy telehealth gives patients easy, frequent access to their physical therapists in case they have questions related to their HEPs. Accurately performing HEPs on a regular basis is critical for recovery and physical therapy telehealth means they don’t need to wait for their next in-person appointment to get the clarification they need.
Easier involvement for at-home caregivers
Physical therapy telehealth also provides a seamless way to involve at-home caregivers into therapeutic interventions. Similar to patients, at-home caregivers can also receive real-time feedback from therapists so they can help support the patient in the best, most realistic way possible.
What are the challenges of physical therapy telehealth?
Results of randomised controlled trials indicate high client acceptance and positive outcomes with this method of delivering psychotherapy. Nonetheless, therapists wishing to deliver physical therapy by telemedicine face a number of challenges.
Lacking the hands-on approach
Many patients turn to physical therapy to reap the benefits of specific hands-on therapy modalities, such as dry needling, scraping, cupping, muscle energy techniques, spinal adjustments, and many other manual treatments. As you consider going into physical therapy telehealth, you might be asking yourself how you can possibly replicate this type of work through a screen.
Here’s the reality: physical therapy telehealth isn’t necessarily something that therapists will want to transition into fully. Patients with more complicated cases will still require manual therapies to treat their conditions. Additionally, many states require that the patient’s first appointment be in-person before transitioning into physical health teletherapy, which makes it impossible to completely give up an office or staff.
Most patients, however, can take full advantage of a hybrid approach between in-person physical therapy and physical therapy telehealth. Therapists spend much of their time analyzing the way people move, looking for faulty movement patterns or movement that exacerbates their symptoms, like pain, numbness, or tingling, all of which can easily be done through a screen. Physical therapists can also complement in-person therapy by offering all the benefits of physical therapy telehealth like HEP feedback, caregiver involvement and making more educational resources readily available.
Use of physical props
You know how important physical props can be to physical therapy interventions. But the introduction of physical therapy telehealth has left a lot of therapists wondering how they will make up for the inability to offer their patients these physical props to use during sessions.
In these cases, therapists will simply need to get a bit more inventive. You will probably need to to spend time with the patient evaluating their home environment for prop substitutes they can use during sessions. This might require therapists to exercise a bit more patience as they help patients feel comfortable and confident with this transition. While the lack of formal physical props might seem like an obstacle at first, with a bit of creativity it’s possible to work around this to make physical therapy telehealth successful for your patients.
Common physical therapy telehealth FAQs
How does physical therapy telehealth work with insurance?
Reimbursement across Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance varies. Please visit the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) site for more detailed information and resources.
My patients are all currently residing all over the United States due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Will physical therapy telehealth allow me to continue providing services to them?
The multi-state licensing compact in place for physical therapy provides physical therapists with greater flexibility to practice across state lines. Individual states need to opt in to the compact so we recommend referencing PT Compact site to check the status of your specific state and other details. Even if your state is not opted into the compact, many states have adjusted certain practicing restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic which may provide you with more flexibility in terms of where your patients can be located when receiving therapy. We suggest referencing this APTA resource to better understand specific developments.
I’ve never done telehealth and I’m worried about coming across as cold through a screen. Do you have any tips?
Many therapists are rethinking their “bedside manner” as they turn toward telehealth. While speaking through a screen can’t ever replicate in-person interactions, there are certain basic tips to consider as you begin to conduct occupational therapy telehealth sessions.
- Practice in front of the web camera: Speaking to a camera doesn’t
come naturally to everyone. You might find it helpful to have a few practice sessions to get used to being on camera before fully diving into
- Pay even more attention to eye contact: It’s easy to get distracted
when you’re sitting in front of your computer so it’s even more important
that you pay attention to maintaining eye contact when speaking and
listening through the computer camera.
- Maintain the right environment: You’ve put effort into making your physical office a safe, comfortable and relaxing space for your patients. Take the same approach with your teletherapy location. Maintain a background that is professional, uncluttered and calm and keep yourself well-lit and visible during sessions.
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