Physical Therapists Offering Virtual ‘Telehealth’ Visits

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. The team at Professional Therapy Services is proving this by offering a new way to see and help patients during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

During this time of uncertainty, while social distancing is paramount, the Professional Therapy Services team, which operates 12 clinics Central and Southern Illinois, is now offering patients a “virtual” option that ensures both personal safety and continuity of treatment.

Known as telehealth visits, these online appointments allow patients to access physical therapy remotely, from the safety of their own homes.

According to Cindy Rankin, Regional Director of Professional Therapy Services, this option ensures those experiencing pain, injuries, or delayed orthopedic surgeries, or who haven’t yet completed their full course of care, can directly access a physical therapist.

“Physical therapy remains an essential service, and telehealth allows us to meet with patients virtually to track progress, review home exercises, and answer concerns and questions that our patients may have,” Rankin said. “We can use telehealth for screenings, for follow-up appointments, wellness check-ins, exercise progressions, and initial evaluations and treatments.”

A telehealth appointment is essentially a video conference between the patient and their physical therapist, using a home computer with webcam, a laptop, or a smartphone.

During the visit, patients can discuss treatments and progress, assess function, review rehab exercises, and modify home exercise programs.

To prepare for one’s telehealth visit, Rankin makes the following suggestions for patients:

Find Ample, Quiet Space

Don’t just connect from the comfort of your armchair. Even while you’re at home, privacy is still important for your PT visit. Plus, you’ll need space to move. Depending on the nature of your visit, your physical therapist may ask for you to demonstrate or repeat movements and exercises.

Dress for a Physical Therapy Visit

Wear comfortable clothes you can move in and which allow the physical therapist to see and evaluable your movements. Workout clothes will likely work best.

Be Prepared to Share

As movement and exercise is the essence of physical therapy, be prepared to answer questions about your access to space and equipment in the home. Also, let the PT know if you have access to workout and rehab tools like mats, exercise bands, foam rollers, and so on.

Open Your Mind

If telehealth is new to you, be welcoming to the experience. While it won’t feel the same as a one-on-one visit, know that much thought and study has gone into ensuring the experience is effective. After an evaluation, the PT will tell you if he/she feels an in-person session is needed.

“With all the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and the various ways it’s likely to continue affecting our lives, telehealth is a way we can ensure all patients are empowered to take better control of their health care journeys,” Rankin said.

“Not only does it allow them to continue physical therapy treatments,” she added, “but it also allows them the flexibility to determine what appointment method best meets their personal conditions.”

Currently, many private health insurance plans, including Medicare, cover telehealth services … at least during this pandemic.

“Rules and regulations vary from state to state, and insurer to insurer,” states the American Physical Therapy Association. “They are also being rapidly updated and changed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the best way to find out what is available to you is to contact your physical therapist and ask.”

For more information about telehealth and to learn how Professional Therapy Services is responding to the pandemic, Rankin recommends contacting the clinic directly.