Most people don’t particularly enjoy receiving homework—and your patients are no different. But, a physical therapy home exercise program (HEP) is a necessary component of an effective PT plan of care. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to work with a patient in-clinic and achieve the results you both want. Plus, the very best long-term results often stem from lifestyle changes, and that’s something your patients have to do for themselves—with your expert help, of course. While you can’t in good conscience ditch the HEP (regardless of how much your patients may beg), you can make the entire experience better—thereby improving engagement and compliance—by ditching the paper exercise sheet or shoddy free physical therapy HEP system and adopting the right integrated, interactive, multimedia, PT-specific HEP software. With that in mind, here are the features you should look for in your next HEP:

A Patient-Centric Design

Of course, any HEP software you choose should be easy for you to use (see number two below). But, it should be simple—and, dare we say, fun—for your patients to use, too. With that in mind, select a PT-specific HEP program that features easy-to-follow exercises (in video and photo formats) and progress-tracking tools that promote engagement, motivation, compliance, and safety. And make sure it’s all accessible from any Internet-enabled device, so patients can complete their HEPs at home, at the office, on the road, at the park—or anywhere else they can fit in a few wall sits or lunges.

In this blog post, Strive co-founder Ryan Klepps suggests “giv[ing] patients permission to make their HEP work for them”—for example, by breaking up exercises into smaller chunks throughout the day—in order to increase compliance. By ensuring your patients have access to their HEPs anywhere, anytime, you’ll help them fit their exercises into their daily lives instead of waiting until they have an hour of uninterrupted time that may never come.

A Customizable—and Monitorable—Program

There’s no one-size-fits all treatment protocol—and there’s no one-size-fits-all home exercise program, either. So, opt for HEP software that lets you generate as many custom home exercise plans as you want (in under two minutes), create and reuse protocols as you see fit, and even rename exercises to better connect with your patients. You’ll also want to be able to digitally monitor your patient’s progress and make changes to the plan in real-time, instead of waiting until that patient’s next visit. Unless you want to manually review every patient’s progress, though, you’ll need an HEP software that’ll alert you to updates as they happen (e.g., when a patient watches an exercise video, logs an activity, and completes his or her plan).

Built-In Patient-Provider Communication Tools

As I mentioned here, a 2011 Journal of Health Services Research study found that patients were more engaged in their care when they experienced:

  • quality interpersonal interactions with their providers,
  • fairness, and
  • communication outside of the clinic.

So, if you’re not building rapport during appointments—and outside of them—you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to enhance engagement. A well-designed, interactive HEP can help. Just be sure to select one that comes with:

  • a secure patient-provider messaging platform you can use to discuss the exercises and answer questions;
  • built-in notifications and goals to keep your patients motivated; and
  • a feedback mechanism that allows patients to let you know whether an exercise is too hard or easy.

Differentiating Capabilities

There are plenty of good things that are free, but top-notch clinical software is rarely one of them. After all, it takes a lot of resources to develop and deliver a high-quality tool that works the way it’s designed to—when and where you and your patients need it. Plus, the quality of your home exercise program is part of what differentiates you from your competitors—and emphasizes your value to referral sources and patients alike.

Free physical therapy HEP software like HEP2go are certainly popular—but is the savings really worth it? After all, If your patients can get a better quality exercise program on YouTube, they may decide to forego your services altogether and take their rehabilitation into their own hands, which can lead to further injury. Instead, select an HEP that best represents your brand and positions you as a consummate professional and expert in your field. Bonus points if you can actually brand the app with your clinic’s logo.

There you have it: the features you should look for when selecting your next HEP. Did we forget a feature? Tell us about the attributes you prioritize in an HEP program in the comment section below.