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How Telehealth Benefits Physical Therapy

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Jessica Shaw

As of August 3, two proposals have been made that will change healthcare delivery now and even after the pandemic is over. Both positive and negative, the first was announced by President Trump’s administration to propose expanded beneficiary access to telehealth for rural communities and the second was proposed by CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to implement up to 9% payment cuts for both physical and occupational therapy. You can learn more about these propositions and how they will affect patient care by clicking on the links below. 

https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/trump-administration-proposes-expand-telehealth-benefits-permanently-medicare-beneficiaries-beyond

https://www.aptqi.com/news/aptqi-disappointed-by-9-cut-to-physical-and-occupational-therapy-included-in-proposed-pfs-rule-for-cy-2021/

https://www.apta.org/article/2020/08/04/therapy-associations-call-stop-medicare-payment-cuts

With these recent changes made to CMS law, we want to advocate for the importance of telehealth not just during a pandemic but always - since virtual care does align with our company mission which is, “to make healthcare efficient, accessible and affordable for everyone” - Richard Welty, CEO & Founder of Raintree Systems. That is why, we have provided you with these research studies that promote the benefits of telehealth for physical therapy practices as well as offer some valuable insight to patient trends and provider findings.  

Trust and Reliability 

While some may have thought physical therapy patients would suffer from less treatment during COVID-19 due to the limitations of face to face instruction, a research study from Ascenti, one of the world’s leading physiotherapy providers based in the UK, presents a comparative report on three patient care options: virtual appointments only, in person visits and integrated services. The data showcases patient telehealth trends just before and during the pandemic, saying 81% of patients were willing and eager to participate in virtual treatment sessions.(1) Among these patients, 77% would extremely recommend telehealth services to family and friends, indicating that a majority of the 27,000+ patients studied would in fact trust virtual physiotherapy as a reliable, effective alternative.(1)

Effectiveness and Dependability 

Another patient survey released by one of our customers, Bay State Physical Therapy, demonstrates the overall increase of their telehealth visits in terms of percentage of total claims, with .17%  in March 2019 and 7.52% in March 2020.(2) Bay State also mentions they have seen over 23,000 telehealth visits in the past 14 weeks as well as recognized a 4 point improvement in their NPS scores, proving that the patients studied were overall pleased with telehealth treatments, regardless of age.(2) While 78.5% of patients 65 and older were very satisfied and 14% were somewhat satisfied, patients aged 35-44 were 100% satisfied even with the unprecedented restrictions of COVID.(2) Along with a decrease in no shows and reduced costs of care, these statistics provide an interesting overview of just how much the physical therapy industry and some other medical specialties have significantly benefited from virtual methods of care. 

Flexibility and Accessibility 

Additionally, Google trends illustrate a 102% increase in searches for knee pain advice, 91% increase for sprained ankle content and 86% increase for articles on shin splints.(3) These influxes of search queries imply that patients are proactively researching for educational material that will help them safely practice self care at home as well as learn more about personal pain management. These patient trends offer exciting revelations for the physical therapy industry in that with increased access to informative online resources and improved awareness, patients will benefit from less discomfort and fewer injuries.  

Sources 

  1. https://ascenti.co.uk/news-article/virtual-physiotherapy-report
  2. https://baystatept.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/BSPT-Telehealth-Whitepaper-dark_v2.pdf
  3. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=2020-03-23%202020-06-15&geo=GB&q=knee%20pain,sprained%20ankle,shin%20splints

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