The COVID-19 pandemic, although a difficult event for all healthcare professionals and patients, did have its silver linings. Specifically, it helped accelerate the adoption of patient-centered technology across the medical landscape—a trend that continues to improve care delivery, patient engagement, and outcomes.
But not every therapist has caught up to these changes, and many therapists are left wondering how, exactly, to go about treating patients remotely and get reimbursed for it. To that end, here are four types of technology—along with a few different examples—that are helping providers deliver excellent care outside of the traditional clinic environment:
While you can provide some remote care services over the phone or via instant messaging, you may find a telehealth platform more effective. Not only does it simplify the treatment process, but a live video environment also more closely mirrors the in-person experience that patients want and better supports you in developing rapport with those patients.
Telehealth has become a major part of healthcare over the past two-plus years, and is a great tool for connecting with patients. Much of that was out of necessity; for the better part of 18 months, social distancing measures made in-office visits unpopular, if not inadvisable. And telehealth has stuck around, as patients have seen the benefits of doctor visits without having to leave home—a good thing, considering the recent renewal of the public health emergency that enables therapists to bill for telehealth.
If you’re thinking about implementing telehealth, here are a few of the top options as recommended by TechRadar:
We highly recommend picking a platform that will sign a business associate agreement (BAA)—even if that agreement isn’t executed immediately—and conducting a risk assessment as soon as you’re able. Also, keep in mind that certain payers may require you to use a specific video call platform, which means you may end up needing multiple services to receive payment from multiple insurance carriers. So, be sure to reach out to any payers you contract with before proceeding.
2. Secure Email
Next, you’ll need a way to deliver important documents to patients remotely—whether that be through a secure patient portal or an email platform. When sending treatment-related materials to patients, whatever transmission method you use must:
- be secure, and
- meet HIPAA standards for protecting patient information.
So, before choosing an email platform, confirm with the vendor that the software is HIPAA-compliant—and have the company sign a business associate agreement. If you’re looking for a solution to implement in your own clinic, Jotform has a list of HIPAA-compliant options to consider.
3. At-Home Exercise Platforms
Keeping patients engaged throughout the duration of care is crucial to their success. But, removing the in-person element of treatment can make it extra challenging to maintain patient engagement—which means rehab therapists must get creative with care delivery.
One interesting way of helping patients stick to their plans of care is to gamify the process. For example, if your patient owns an Xbox, they can use it to play physical therapy-based games as part of an at-home plan of care. This is an excellent way to get patients excited about sticking with therapy—and evidence has shown that it’s highly effective. In some cases, these games can send feedback to the patient’s therapist. For example, MIRA Therapy is a game-based platform that allows providers to track their patients’ progress from a remote platform based on real-time data.
Here are a few other game-based apps and platforms rehab therapists can use to engage with and treat patients from a distance:
- Dexteria VMI: An Apple-exclusive app that helps patients improve their visual-motor integration skills.
- P.O.V: An iOS app that improves spatial reasoning.
- LetterReflex: An ideal app for school-based therapists that helps children overcome the challenges of dyslexia.
- Articulation Essentials 2.0: An excellent app for SLPs that teaches articulation techniques (also available for Android).
Of course, as with any remote technology you use to provide treatment, it’s imperative that you cross your t’s and dot your i’s with respect to legal due diligence. Additionally, keep in mind that your ability to bill for services delivered via these technologies is highly dependent on payer policies and state practice acts.
Digital Home Exercise Programs
Speaking of interactive apps, home exercise programs (HEPs) have made it easier than ever for rehab therapists to drive positive patient outcomes from a distance. By combining the interactivity of game-based apps with the effectiveness of evidence-based home exercises, digital HEPs help rehab therapists create and deliver at-home exercise plans that patients can easily access on their mobile devices. Better yet, a platform like WebPT HEP (which integrates with the WebPT EMR) can help you track patient progress, collect real-time analytical data, and communicate with the patient instantaneously—all from one easy-to-use mobile platform.
4. Remote Care
The next step in value-based care is providers being able to use digital health tools to monitor not only what patients are doing, but how they’re reacting to their treatment through self-reported non-physiologic data.
Remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) should ultimately prove to be a remarkable step forward in both telehealth and physical therapy overall. RTM goes hand-in-hand with digital HEP, allowing therapists to monitor their patients’ progress through a device or app that tracks patient’s self-reported data. Collecting those patient-reported outcomes measures (PROMs) with a qualifying device or software can help with both patient engagement and adherence, which in turn improves outcomes and potentially lowers overall healthcare costs for patients and payers. Apps also provide an avenue for patients and therapists to chat outside of the office over any concerns about treatment or home exercise. It’s an invaluable addition to your rehab therapy practice, particularly given that therapists can now get reimbursed by Medicare for RTM services.
Rehab therapists are no strangers to turning lemons into lemonade. And with health care’s mutability, it seems like PTs, OTs, and SLPs were presented with a major opportunity in the form of expanding their use of remote care options. Got any questions about the platforms we mentioned? Drop us a line in the comment section below!