6 months ago
Telerehab: Convenient and Patient-Friendly
Utilizing technology to get injured works the care they need when and where they need it.
Telehealth is a popular topic in the workers’ compensation industry, especially now due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. This virtual treatment option is a great way to reduce missed appointments by bringing providers right into patients’ homes, with extended therapy hours and eliminating the need to travel.
To ensure national coverage and no interruption of current treatment during COVID-19, many of our largest PT network providers have joined our direct offering and are coordinating with One Call to offer seamless remote solutions for injured workers already in treatment. You’ll get the same high-quality clinical oversight and administrative support from One Call on which you have come to rely.
Since 2017, our telerehab program has been 100% remote – from initial evaluation on. Serving as an end-to-end virtual solution with many benefits, including:
- Extended hours: Virtual therapists are often available from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Immediate scheduling: Even without expressed concern from injured workers, we can start scheduling immediately – both new referrals and individuals already in treatment.
- Comparable pricing: Pricing is comparable to traditional physical therapy, and it’s often more cost-effective since injured workers can schedule appointments when it’s convenient for them - this often leads to fewer appointments needed for recovery.
- Ease of use: All an injured worker needs is a smart device and WiFi access.
- One-on-one attention from the therapist: This leads to faster healing times and has been shown to help chronic pain patients.
To learn more about the program, we spoke with Michelle Despres, VP and National Product Leader for Physical Therapy at One Call, to discuss who would be a good candidate for telerehab in addition to how the program works and the benefits an injured worker could receive. Read the article below or watch our recent one-hour webinar.
Virtual Treatment Can Work for More than Just Soft-Tissue Injuries.
Not every injury is suitable for virtual care, but any injury that inhibits movement can be improved through a telehealth platform.
“Pretty much anything non-surgical makes sense,” said Despres. “Injuries that are muscular or skeletal in nature can be treated in this setting, but post-surgical rehabilitation and even chronic pain can also be addressed.”
Injuries that need to remain immobile in order to heal — like an open wound or fractured bone — would be unsuitable. But “as long as a person is cleared for active movement, that person would be a fine candidate for a telerehab platform,” Despres said.
Sample Telerehab Session:
Katie Dwyer, staff writer at Risk & Insurance, created a sample telerehab appointment. Dwyer connected with Aideen Turner, a virtual physical therapist with Virtual Physical Therapists LLC, via smartphone as she conducted an assessment for neck and shoulder tightness.
Turner explained how she and other virtual PTs are trained to look for inhibited range of motion of even a few degrees.
“The therapists are trained in mechanical diagnoses and treatment. They evaluate based on function and movement patterns. What used to be done by touch and feel can now be done by cueing movements for the injured worker and watching how their bodies respond,” Despres said.
For Dwyer, running through a series of movements like turning the head from side to side and up and down revealed some tightness in the left shoulder and neck area. Turner could then recommend a few specific stretches and postural adjustments that would loosen the area and prevent it from getting worse.
The Technology is Easy to Use.
All an injured worker needs to access a telerehab platform is a smart device and WiFi access. After creating a user account on the virtual provider app, scheduling an appointment was just two clicks away — open the app and click on the “Appointments” tab.
Most telehealth platforms are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly. Convenience has been a driving force behind the product, encouraging patients that are less comfortable with technology to give it a try, with no technical issues reported.
It Saves Time and Avoids Scheduling Stress.
The biggest benefit of using a virtual physical therapy platform is convenience. Traditional, in-person appointments can be difficult to fit into a normal workday schedule. An injured worker’s employer may require them to clock out for an afternoon appointment; accounting for travel time and an hour-long visit, that worker could lose two hours of his workday. Avoiding that scenario means scheduling an appointment before or after work hours, but many clinics do not have schedules to meet that need.
Virtual therapists are often available as early as 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Patients may also be able to complete their appointment from their workplace. A quiet conference room with a good WiFi connection may be all that’s needed.
In addition to removing scheduling stress, that flexibility can contribute to better care by facilitating a faster first appointment and increasing the likelihood that patients keep appointments. Appointments in this format also tend to be more efficient.
“Virtual appointments generally last 30 to 45 minutes. They’re laser-focused. As you move through the appointment there’s no ice or heat applied, no electric stimulation, no ultrasound. They hone right in on the problem that needs to be addressed and address them immediately. This format is better suited to speed. You typically don’t need a full hour appointment,” Despres said.
It Sets the Foundation for Long-Term Health.
Much more so than with traditional care, virtual care includes a larger educational component. Because the therapist is not physically present to assist with movements or joint stabilization, the onus is much more on the patient to learn these techniques and practice them continually.
“Self-management is a big factor. But that can translate into faster recovery. Instead of a patient practicing these movements three times a week with their therapist, they are encouraged and enabled to do them three times a day on their own,” Despres said.
“You’re taught to identify your symptoms, to connect your symptoms to movements, and to self-mobilize.”
Other Surprising Benefits of Telerehab
As with any new technology, employers are slow to adopt virtual health platforms; they first want to understand its use cases and whether it will bring additional benefits they haven’t seen before. Even in its early stages, however, telerehab (virtual PT) is producing some surprising results that may result in significant cost savings for employers and workers’ compensation payers.
With the ability to schedule appointments faster, telerehab platforms enable a “PT-first” approach, which can cut down on unnecessary (and expensive) diagnostic testing.
“We had a gentleman who worked in an office experience a shoulder injury. He had an MRI before he started therapy, which showed a small tear. Well, a tear is a fairly common occurrence in our shoulders. After three virtual PT visits, he was 100 percent functional and felt fine,” Despres said. “But the fact that this word ‘tear’ was officially diagnosed in his MRI report… it made him fearful. It made him feel like this is a big problem to be fixed, and this is the kind of thinking that can lead to surgery when surgery may not be the best route. It’s often better to try PT first to see if that makes a difference before taking more drastic measures. Our experience using a telerehab platform has shown that.”
Virtual platforms have also proven effective at addressing chronic pain — something no one was expecting.
“When we first conceptualized what telerehab looked like, we didn’t think chronic pain patients would be good candidates. They’ve been experiencing pain for a long time, there’s a lot going on — we thought they’d benefit from a face-to-face interaction,” Despres said. “But we’ve learned that virtual PT actually can provide a greater degree of one-on-one attention. Many patients have said ‘Wow, this is the first time I’ve had someone’s attention for a full 30 to 45 minutes.’ And suddenly their care takes a turn.”
At a time when healthcare providers are searching for alternative chronic pain treatments that don’t involve addictive painkillers, this result demonstrates that virtual PT is an effective option.
If you are interesting in utilizing telerehab, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.