The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have stopped much of the world. Once busy streets and shops are empty, activities are cancelled and you may not even be going to work. One thing that the virus has not stopped is pain and injury. Some people were seeing a PT when stay at home orders were issued. Some people may be having more pain and soreness in their back or neck because of all the time spent in front of the computer working at home, or there may be injuries while doing yard work or exercising to relieve stress. How can people get the care they need while staying safe and maintaining social distance?
Technology like the internet, electronic medical records, online patient portals, smartphones and webcams open up treatment and intervention options that may be new to both patients and providers. Virtual platforms allow one-on-one interactions in real time. Patient portals allow uploads and updates of home exercise programs and educational materials. Patients may not be able to go to their PT, but their PT may be able to come virtually to them! Rules and regulations vary between states and insurers and are being rapidly updated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the best way to find out what is available to you is to contact your physical therapist and ask!
What does telehealth look like?
Here are some examples to illustrate how technology can help therapists and patients:
- A therapist might use a virtual meeting to examine a patient in real time, asking the patient questions, assessing movements, and then educating them on some exercises or stretches to treat the pain.
- A patient currently being treated by a physical therapist might log into a patient portal to send a question about an exercise from their home program. The therapist could record a video of themselves doing the exercise correctly including tips and proper techniques. That video could then be uploaded to the patient’s portal for future reference.
- A therapist could use a video visit with a patient to review the patient’s home and help the patient determine which furniture or other items could be used to complete their home exercise program safely.
Coronavirus hasn’t stopped pain and injury, sothe need for physical therapy remains just as strong as before anyone knew about “social distancing” or the best way to have a virtual meeting. Despite the challenges and unusual circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, creativity, flexibility and technology allow physical therapists to continue delivering expert care to their patients.