It is possible to get treatment while staying home to avoid virus exposure

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As Americans are encouraged to stay home and away from crowds, what happens if you need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional? There are obvious risks associated with going to a clinic or hospital. The waiting rooms are filled with sick people!

“Telehealth, where diagnoses and treatments are delivered using a phone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer, is often a better way to get treatment. We have already proven it can be done with physical therapy. And if it can work with one of the most challenging sectors, which is traditionally thought of as hands-on treatment, it should be able to work for a broader range of healthcare applications,” says Darwin Fogt, MPT and Phzio founder. Phzio launched its telerehab services in 2015 and has quickly grown to more than 1,000 providers in 48 states and throughout Canada.

Telehealth is timely now and will hopefully become the new healthcare paradigm 

Fogt says that many people would benefit from having telehealth as a first option. With this current coronavirus outbreak, they include older Americans and those who are immunosuppressed or have cardiopulmonary diseases who are at higher risk of catastrophic complications if they contract the disease. Likewise, people who live with, or interact frequently, with these people should take precautions so they aren’t exposing their loved ones to the virus.

“Telehealth fits in with social distancing. In addition to being vigilant about hand washing and not touching your face, people aren’t having to worry about being surrounded by potentially compromised patients. Plus, when more people interact with their doctors from home, it will also help keep people out of the ER, reduce crowds in waiting rooms and help the staff stay on schedule with appointments.” Long wait times don’t happen with telehealth.

Fogt is confident that this current pandemic will push telehealth further into the forefront of medical delivery. “By the time the next pandemic happens, hopefully everyone in the medical community will have already built a telehealth component into their practice. It’s cost effective, safe and it gives more patients access to immediate care.”

He explains how his service is pioneering this new normal for healthcare. “One day, if you get sick there will first be a triage with your specialist via telehealth. That should take about 5 to 10 minutes. Our average triage takes about 8 minutes. Among physical therapy patients, a small percentage will then need to be seen by a clinic for imaging or manual therapy. But for most, telerehab will be acceptable and we can get started immediately.”

Telehealth, or in this case telerehab, empowers patients so they’re not living with pain

In situations such as this current coronavirus pandemic, telerehab treatments are giving patients more control. “Instead of sitting at home suffering in pain, they can interact with their physical therapist in real time and do the exercises from home. They can be proactive and continue to help themselves feel better while at the same time minimize their risks of being exposed to the virus.”

There’s no doctor’s prescription required to use these services. “We initiate a video call and diagnose your condition. A treatment plan is created and then we monitor and adjust your therapy as needed. Typically, you can connect with a live physical therapist within 24 hours of contacting us and in some cases much more quickly.”

After the initial one-on-one evaluation is completed and the plan of care is established, the patient will be scheduled for online follow-up visits. Clicking on a button embedded in an email brings the patient and physical therapist into a secure virtual treatment room for guided therapy sessions. The patient places a phone, laptop or tablet on the floor and starts following along with a series of 2- to 3-minute therapeutic exercise videos. The physical therapist monitors the patient as they exercise, giving feedback and modifying the movements as necessary through video chat, audio chat or texting. Patients will also use the videos on a self-serve basis.

More telehealth benefits 

Using Phzio as an example, Fogt explains how telehealth improves patient care.

  • It improves accessibility. “In rural areas,
    someone might drive two hours for traditional treatment. In urban areas,
    it might take 45 minutes to drive four miles! With telerehab, you can do a
    movement analysis from your phone, computer or tablet. You can work rehab
    into your lunch hour, between meetings or while the kids are at soccer
    practice.”
  • You still get real-time interaction. “At your
    appointment time, clicking on a button brings you and your physical
    therapist into the virtual treatment room. Then you can place your phone,
    laptop or tablet on the floor and start playing the 2- to 3-minute
    exercises. As you’re doing these exercises, your physical therapist is
    monitoring you, giving you feedback and modifying the exercises as
    necessary through video chat, audio chat or texting. It’s a private and
    one-on-one experience.”
  • You’ll be more likely to seek help sooner.
    “If you let nagging injuries go, your body will find ways to move that
    won’t affect that pain. Soon, you’ll develop poor movement patterns that
    affect other parts of your body. Before telerehab, by the time the pain
    got so bad that you finally sought help, practitioners would first need to
    unravel the symptoms to find the original source of the problem. Now
    because telerehab is so easy, you’re likelier to fix the problem faster
    and before complications arise. All without the risks associated with
    being out in public during a pandemic.”

To find a telerehab physical therapist near you, visit https://Phzio.com/.

Darwin Fogt, MPT is a California Licensed Physical Therapist with a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from USC and a Masters degree in Physical Therapy from Cal State Long Beach.

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