Updated: Apr 15, 2020
We recently posted a blog on our Facebook page originally published on WomensRunning.com that highlighted telehealth for physical therapy (tele-PT) and wanted to speak to some of the points in that article to shed light on how Rehab United is helping to guide patients to success while remotely addressing their pain and physical therapy needs. I decided to ask a few questions of our Owner/CEO Bryan Hill about some specifics of the article to help our patients learn more about what we are doing to incorporate this into our practice.
Q: How are you adapting to this new technology at RU?
We’ve been doing virtual appointments for patients and athletes for several years now actually, so it’s not new it’s just an expansion of something we were already doing. Whether the patient found us through word-of-mouth referral or searching online, we’ve encountered people in other states and in other regions of the world who desperately needed a better option than what was available to them.
One of our athletes here in San Diego has been able to benefit from online assessments as she has traveled internationally for races and training. We’ve been working with Lesley Paterson of Braveheart Coaching for nearly a decade now, and Lesley being a 5-time world champion in off-road triathlon takes her training and racing very seriously. But she also gets injured. About eight years ago I got a call from her one day and she tells me, “Bry, I’m in Costa Rica and I’m racing tomorrow…and I just smashed my shoulder in a fall off the bike. Can you help me?”
Lesley and I got on a video call, and I was able to assess her movement and guide her through some exercises and stretches to calm down the spasm and get her moving again. She was able to race the next day because we were able to work together to get her moving. She won cause she’s a stud athlete!
The tools we’ve been able to give Lesley over the years when she’s here in San Diego and back on the race circuit have kept her going. She recognizes the benefit not only for herself but also for her coaching clients. She has sent her athletes to us for virtual appointments from all over the world for many years now, and they are able to experience PT from the functional biomechanical approach that RU is built on.
Q: In the article, one practitioner stated that tele-PT is better suited toward ongoing care vs. an initial visit. Do you agree?
I don’t, and I’ll tell you why. When I’m doing an evaluation in the clinic, I’m spending probably 75% of my time watching the way the patient moves and listening to their history. I’ll do some hands-on testing but that’s usually to either confirm or rule out something that I’ve already identified as problematic from the history or movement assessment. So, while that hands-on time is beneficial, it’s not a make-or-break for how I’m going to proceed with a plan of care for a given patient.
Case in point - back in February this year I did a podcast on injury prevention and a listener in Georgia contacted me afterward about a nagging injury she’d had for about 5 years. She told me that she’d tried traditional physical therapy and that she just wasn’t seeing any significant improvements, but that she was struggling with running the distances she used to enjoy. We talked at length and she revealed that her lumbar spine was very “locked up”, creating pain in her low back with any running over a mile. We did a video assessment and I could see where some of her limitations were coming from. I instructed her on a full joint mobility program by using tools around the house and focusing on strategies to maintain flexibility. Just six weeks in she’s happy to report that, “it is working!”.
She recently returned to running and ran her fastest time in 6 months. Her feedback to me on the experience, “I had tried manual PT in the past, and there’s value in that certainly, but this experience for me has been much better. I have been able to recover faster and do more with the approach Rehab United (Bryan) takes with me online. I get one-on-one, which I was not getting in the clinic, and I get a chance to share what is really going on with me. Not to mention, I always felt like I wasn’t doing my exercises at home correctly; Bryan has been able to ensure that I am doing it right since he’s coaching me on it while I’m at home!” She indicated that even when things go back to normal, she will continue to use tele-PT for a variety of reasons (can do it from home, eliminated the drive to PT, very effective, and feels a great connection)
Q: The article also mentioned that all the practitioners were doing tele-PT on a cash-only basis and not accepting insurance. What is RU’s approach here?
Prior to COVID-19 and all the mandated shut-downs, it’s true that insurance companies were not reimbursing for tele-PT and we had to do all of our online sessions on a cash-pay basis. However, in just the past few weeks we’ve seen a major shift in the insurance industry and many of them are now authorizing payment for tele-PT appointments. Our front office teams at RU are calling to verify those tele-PT benefits for any patient who wants to utilize the service, to ensure that their specific policy will cover the treatment sessions.
Q: So If I wanted to try tele-PT with RU what would I need to do?
The first step would be to call our clinic and request an appointment. The front office team can verify your insurance benefits and schedule a time for you to get on a video call with one of our physical therapists. We now utilize a program called Doxy.me (the same HIPAA compliant tele-PT platform mentioned in the article) that establishes a secure portal for the PT and patient to communicate through. We give the patient instructions on how to access their secured portal and also send electronic intake forms for the patient to fill out. If the patient has a very specific issue they’d like to address in the evaluation we can also instruct them ahead of time to film specific movement patterns so that we can review ahead of the evaluation appointment. From there the physical therapist is able to listen to the patient’s needs and demonstrate exercises, and the patient is able to ask questions and receive guidance on their specific condition.
Q: Do you have any other advice or guidance for patients during this time?
The author of the article we posted said it pretty well, “…if you’re hurt, you don’t have to suffer through the COVID-19 crisis. With numerous telehealth options, you can get expert help, plus learn more about your body…”
Our world has changed, and we have expanded and accelerated our online assessments to adapt to those changes. We are here for you as we have been for the last 17 years, and look forward to continuing that mission for many years to come!
Erynne Hill, MS, ATC, HHP is an athletic trainer, holistic health practitioner, and Director of Massage & Wellness for Rehab United. She received practical education and thousands of hours of experience working with athletes in the athletic training room and on the field during her undergraduate education in Tennessee. She transitioned to working as a massage therapist and bodyworker as her primary career path when she moved to San Diego in 2003. Since that time, Erynne has continued working with clients and patients seeking therapeutic and remedial massage and expand on her knowledge base by earning a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science at SDSU in 2008.