Most physical therapists never imagined treating patients virtually. Many of the standard tests and treatments involve hands-on contact with patients. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and telehealth was presented as an option for physical therapists, many questioned if this treatment could be as effective.
Telehealth can have some advantages compared with in-person therapy, especially for patients’ independence with their home programs and partnership with their therapists.
Forging Patient Independence
“While I was a bit apprehensive about telehealth not being as fruitful as in-person visits,” Sabrina says, “telehealth forges independence for the patient and his or her family.”
Having a patient demonstrate how he gets into and out of his own bed, for example, allows Sabrina to identify problems and individualized strategies to lessen the risk of falls. With telehealth, she observes, patients begin developing independence on the first day of therapy.
They realize that if they can complete a PT session “without being in the clinic and with solely supervision from my therapist, I will eventually be able to complete my therapeutic program without any supervision at all, just using the items I have in my own home.”
Being Flexible and Creative
Emily Steinberg, PT, DPT, OCS, Cert MDT, who specializes in orthopedic physical therapy, also had some initial doubts about the effectiveness of telehealth.
“I have been doing PT for 11 years,” Emily says, “and never once considered a virtual option.”
However, Emily quickly realized that being flexible and creative with a patient’s home setup is one key to telehealth success, as well as developing a relationship with new patients right off the bat.
“I think my team bond with my patients is stronger in the telehealth setting,” Emily says, “I am relying on them heavily to help me learn the things I need to learn, and each patient has stepped up to the challenge. I think it has helped empower patients to learn more quickly how they are able to help themselves.”
Telehealth visits are available at Good Shepherd Penn Partners for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Request your virtual or in-person appointment online or call 877.969.7352. Once a telehealth appointment is set, Good Shepherd Penn Partners will provide you with videoconferencing login information.