They say a carpenter is only as good as his or her tools. So if you plan on making a masterpiece, then you want to use the best tools available. Otherwise, you’ll probably have to make a few concessions—and there’s a good chance you’ll end up with suboptimal results. And as a rehab therapist, it’s especially important that you use the best tools available, because the results of your labor have a direct impact on the wellbeing and livelihood of your patients.

Plenty of tools seem appealing at first glance—especially ones that come at zero cost—and home exercise program (HEP) software is certainly no exception. But, when you start researching free home exercise programs, it’s clear that less-than-average cost comes with a less-than-average product, and that can be hugely detrimental to patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Quality HEP software fosters quality health care.

Before we get into to the dangers of mediocre HEP software, you need to know why an HEP platform is crucial to rehab therapy practice success. For one thing, interactive, digitized HEP platforms are linked to higher patient satisfaction rates. In fact, a study done by The Beryl Institute found that when providers incorporated interactive technology into their treatment, overall patient satisfaction increased by 10%, while patient satisfaction with educational materials grew by more than 40%. Of course, an uptick in patient satisfaction often leads to an increase in patients’ perceived value of therapy, and that means more loyal patients and more word-of-mouth referrals.

In addition to creating happier patients, interactive HEP software also helps create healthier patients. As we noted in this WebPT Blog post, “If you’re using a trusted, professional HEP tool, you can tailor your programs to meet the needs of each individual patient. Plus, you can be confident that you’re prescribing movements that are peer-reviewed and industry-backed, which means patients are performing exercises that have been proven effective, [and] that translates to better patient outcomes.”

You get what you pay for.

Some things in life are better when they’re free (e.g., concert tickets, food, and t-shirts). But, you just can’t cut corners on certain things, and software that helps your patients reach their health goals—and helps you practice at the top of your license—definitely falls into that category.

Limited Exercises

Discount HEP software might sound like a bargain, but it comes with major limitations. For one thing, free HEP platforms typically have limited exercise libraries that aren’t updated frequently. (To be fair, there’s no real financial incentive for the developer to maintain and update this type of software.) These narrow offerings also limit your patients’ potential. And while you could resort to printing off exercise sheets and hand-writing any additional exercises, that sort of defeats the purpose of using a digital platform.

Room for Error

Additionally, bargain-basement HEP platforms don’t always provide interactive tutorials. Instead of offering instructional videos, these systems feature instructions based on still images or drawings—both of which leave room for confusion. And if your patients aren’t sure how to perform an exercise, they may:

  • not do it at all;
  • call you for clarification, thus pulling you away from patient appointments or documentation time; or
  • worst of all, turn to YouTube for instruction from someone who isn’t even a licensed therapist.

Missed Engagement Opportunities

When you opt for subpar HEP software, you miss out on all of the tools that make electronic HEPs a patient engagement game-changer. However, a high-quality, industry-trusted HEP program keeps patients engaged throughout the course of care. Plus, this type of software ensures providers always have the best evidence-based content available. And that means better patient outcomes. In fact, a study published in the Australia-based Journal of Physiotherapy found that an app with remote patient-provider engagement achieved “better adherence to home exercise programs than paper handouts in people with musculoskeletal conditions.”

No User Support

Technology—like the healthcare industry—is ever-evolving. And as with the healthcare industry, staying on top of tech changes is crucial to making sure everything runs smoothly in your practice. As I mentioned previously, developers aren’t always quick to update and maintain free software. So, when problems occur, it could be a long time before they’re ever addressed—if they’re addressed at all. Additionally, free software doesn’t usually come with phone support, so if you have questions about the software’s functionality, you’re left to navigate those issues on your own. However, any HEP platform worth its salt comes with full phone and email support, making it super-easy for you to ensure you’re using the program to its full potential.

A small price tag can make you feel like you’re getting an amazing deal, but if it’s attached to lackluster software, then it’s probably not worth the cost. Besides, if you’re a rehab therapy provider who’s serious about delivering the best possible patient outcomes and cultivating a great patient experience, then you simply can’t afford to cut corners on the tools you use every day—and HEP software is no exception. So, if you’re ready to improve your patients’ HEP adherence and keep them engaged in therapy, click here to learn more about WebPT’s innovative HEP tool for rehab therapists. Have your own HEP best practices to share? Post your thoughts in the comment section below.