As our society continues to move in a more “on demand” direction and technologies allow just about everything we, as a population, could possibly need at our fingertips, will therapy professionals and practices follow suit? Possibly so, given the amount of continued chatter around the concept of telehealth or virtual therapy over the years.
Telehealth therapy has a lot of obvious merits, including:
- It has huge potential to expand access to care in geographically remote and underserved areas, of which there are many for PTs, OTs, and SLPs alike. This can be particularly helpful in pediatrics, where schools can set up technology for remote therapy for multiple children in one central location, opening access to pediatric patients that might not be able to get the help they need otherwise.
- Virtual therapy can also work in conjunction with in-office therapy as an efficient way to perform post-discharge checkups, intake of subjective history, quick screens, post-surgical monitoring, management of chronic illnesses, consultations with other practitioners, such as yoga instructors or pelvic floor specialists, and just about every part of therapy that isn’t manual.
- Telehealth also puts a strong emphasis on education and pain science for patients, their families, and their caregivers to help them understand their diagnoses and steps they will need to take to improve function. This can be especially helpful for home health patients, such as those who are aging in place, mental health patients, and outpatient neuro patients.
- For therapists, themselves, the benefits are vast. Telehealth affords therapy professionals a flexibility that is not possible with clinical practice. It also isn’t nearly as physically taxing on therapy professionals as traditional clinical therapy practice can be.
Telehealth, despite its many merits, and like anything else, also has drawbacks. At the moment, it is only possible for therapists to practice virtually in the states they are licensed. Also, patient acquisition has proven to be tough for some. Atop that, Medicare does not currently reimburse for use of remote physical, occupational, or speech therapy, though Medicaid does, at least in some states, and third-party payers all come with their own rules for telehealth reimbursement. Though, as telehealth continues to catch on and healthcare, as a whole, moves toward models that involve more immediate, remote care options, those hurdles to successful telehealth practice may be removed.
What are your thoughts on telehealth therapy?
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.