While we are still open for low risk patients and of course, practicing the strictest health guidelines, we are at a time when we are all trying to avoid leaving our homes and contact with others.
For those who are simply unable to attend PT given past exposure to or illness with COVID-19 or for the many people are unable to leave their homes due to pre-existing conditions that put them at an increased risk, such as auto-immune conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory conditions, etc. - we have a solution!
This pandemic does not exist in a vacuum. Just because there is a global pandemic does not mean our backs stop hurting, our ankles won't get sprained, or our new hip or knee stops needing more range of motion. While we would usually be attending physical therapy for these issues, for many people, this is no longer a possibility.
Thankfully, there are still many options for treating all of the same orthopedic conditions we had before the COVID-19 pandemic came around. Many insurance companies, including Medicare, will now pay for virtual, aka telehealth, physical therapy appointments! As many of us have never had a telehealth appointment, especially for physical therapy, I wanted to outline how virtual physical therapy sessions can help our patients continue their path to healing in these trying times.
1. Exercise progression
Advancing physical therapy exercises is one of the easiest ways to benefit from a virtual PT session. Because our telehealth platform has great video and audio feed, we can easily observe how patients are currently performing exercises and describe and demonstrate new exercises to keep up with the strengthening and technique building progressions we would normally be working on in person. Additionally, we always follow up with an email containing the exact exercise discussed complete with pictures, description, frequency, etc.
2. Home workout assessments
At a time when recreation centers, gyms, and many other means of physical activity are not available, people are getting creative with their regular workout routines! Countless fitness celebrities are posting new home work out programs, which is helping all of us stay in shape and avoid going stir crazy! As physical therapists we can not only check the form on these new exercise routines but also suggest new ways to get in an aerobic or strengthening workout that is appropriate for each patient's particular issues and needs.
Additionally, it is very easy for us to assess form with walking, running, and cycling using our telehealth platform. By simply setting one's video camera in front of their treadmill or stationary bike, we can assess and guide technique. This not only helps heal current injuries but is also an essential way to avoid new ones!
3. Teaching hands on care
For many patients, especially those who have just had surgery, hands on care is an essential part of the recovery process. As physical therapists, one of our most highly specialized skills is joint and soft tissue mobilization. Although we cannot provide that directly via a telehealth appointment, we can teach someone in your household to do some of the same techniques! Our video and audio feed allows us to describe and demonstrate techniques as well as watch patients' partners perform these techniques and provide feedback. With feedback from the patient, we can also ensure the techniques performed are being done in the correct area, at the right level of pressure, and are assisting in relieving pain.
Although virtual sessions are certainly not what our patients planned on when they signed up for physical therapy at Coal Creek, they are an essential way to keep the healing process going and prevent new injury. As physical therapists, we are here to get you through these crazy times and are so excited to have found a way to do so safely and effectively. We look forward to meeting with you, either in the clinic or on your computer screen, very soon! Call us at 303 6664151 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started on your virtual care.
Annabel Bavage, PT, DPT