Telehealth Physical Therapy FAQs
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Now that we have established that catchy titles are just not my thing, I wanted to write a post all about Telehealth. Most people seem intrigued when I tell them about my online physical therapy clinic, but don't quite grasp how it would work.
So I'm going to address all of the different questions that I have been asked and help clear it up, and maybe you will give telehealth physical therapy or wellness a try.
1. How does telehealth work?
It's very similar to going to a PT in a clinic, except you use a web cam. I'll meet with you via the webcam and discuss what your issue is and figure out what your goals are. Then I'll ask you to do some things so I can figure out what is happening. If I see anything concerning I'll refer you to a doctor right away, which is the rare case Most of the time will be spent going through exercises that you can use to manage your issue. The focus will be on figuring out your plan and empowering you to do it in a way that works for you.
2. What are the benefits of choosing telehealth over a traditional clinic?
Convenience is of course one of the biggest benefits of telehealth. You can do it at home, the office, at a park or even in a gym. Wherever works for you.
Also, if you live in a more remote area where there is not a ton of access to clinics, telehealth may be a great option for you.
There are no distractions. In the clinics the therapists usually have to see more than one patient at a time and you may be seen by a rehab aide for most of the session. This limits the time for education and strategizing a plan specific for you.
Less sessions are needed. Because I can spend time with you without distractions, we focus on teaching you to manage yourself. The old two to three visits per week for four to six weeks that is still used in most clinics is an outdated model in my opinion. With telehealth we can teach you what to do, check in via email, text, or phone to guide you through and follow up a few weeks later. With this plan we can limit follow ups, so you spend less time in PT and keep the cost down.
3. How can you do telehealth without manual therapy like massage or stretching?
Manual therapy is a great tool, and I do use it at times when I am in the clinic. However, I don't think it is necessary. Manual therapy isn't changing tissues, or moving body parts, it just helps to tone down the sensitivity of the area. That is all it is doing and the effect is always temporary. If it is not followed up with improved strategies, such as exercise and movement, the issue will return. And most times I only use manual therapy to tone down pain and get people moving. That's the ultimate goal, to move, and we can do that without manual therapy. By teaching patients about when it is safe to move and how to use movement and exercise to decrease pain they can do the same thing to themselves that anyone else can do to them with manual therapy. This is invaluable for patients to learn. If you only get better with manual therapy than you are dependent on that therapy. And if pain arises and you can't get to an appointment you have no way of fixing it. But movement and exercise gives you control, and you can learn strategies that you can use anywhere at anytime to help manage pain. This is a much more valuable use of time for most patients.
4. Do I need prescription from my doctor for telehealth physical therapy?
No, you do not need a prescription. Pennsylvania is a direct access state which means that you can see a physical therapist without needing to see a doctor. If you are still needing treatment after 30 days then all I need to do is send a plan of care to your doctor and if he or she signs it then we can continue with PT. The hope is to keep most visits down so that we never go over this limit. The scenario where it may arise is if I see you once or twice, then you manage on your own for several weeks and that takes us past the 30 days after which you want a session to progress or tweak some things. Most doctors will gladly sign for physical therapy and many patients may also be able to convert to wellness services and not need a doctor's signature. This would be the case if the injury is doing fine but you would like to just have some progression to your program to stay healthy overall.
5. Does insurance cover telehealth therapy services?
At this time insurance does not reimburse for telehealth services. But, when you account for the high copays and visit numbers of traditional PT with the idea of only needing a few visits and learning what to do on your own, the out of pocket cost will likely be the same or even less. The follow up visits for telehealth services are $50. Many copays range from $30-50 per session, not including any deductibles which may apply. You may also be able to pay or submit for reimbursement from an HSA account for services depending on the limits of your account. When you account for all of those factors, online physical therapy might be a better strategy for you.
6. What is running analysis?
Running analysis is the use of video to look at running form in slow motion and determine areas that may make you vulnerable to injury or may have contributed to some pain you are having. To have a running analysis you would just need to take a video of yourself running on a treadmill and then send it to me. I'll look at it and we'll go over it during your appointment and review findings and strategies to improve form. During the appointment we can also do an evaluation of a specific injury or an injury screen. See below for description of an injury screen.
7. What is a running injury screen?
A running screen is an evaluation that take you through some specific movements or activities to see how you can manage each one. Through the screen, we can pinpoint specific areas that may contribute to an injury with running and educate you on how to address them with an exercise program. During the screen you will also be given information on managing progressions and what to do if you have an injury. This is a great resource for someone starting out, someone entering a new running season, or also someone who is not currently injured but has a history of recurring injuries. Running injury screens are included with running analysis but can be done separately as well.
8. What is a wellness session?
A wellness service would be for someone who is not necessarily injured right now but just wants to get into a new fitness program or progress within an existing one. This is good for someone who has never exercised before and just wants some help getting started. Postpartum women, or really any woman who has ever had a baby and needs help getting back to their fitness goals, can benefit greatly from these sessions. I will be adding more about postpartum care on the blog in the near future. And lastly, runners may use this service to help guide their exercise training to support getting through a running season or build strength in the off-season.
9. What equipment do I need for telehealth?
You need a webcam for the appointment. After that we can work with whatever fitness equipment you have at home. I may recommend a few bands to work with but that is not always necessary. I am also a big fan of kettlebells because they are very versatile but, again, they may not be necessary to purchase for your home. Specific equipment or gym needs can be something we discuss and determine the need for during the initial evaluation.
This program, videos and content is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. It is for educational purposes only. If you chose to try any of the exercises presented here do so at your own risk. Please consult a physician before you start any new program.
Not every exercise is safe for everybody. Correct execution of all exercises is imperative to prevent injury. Please consult a healthcare professional if you have any questions about your exercise execution or if an exercise is right for you.
You are responsible for yourself and will not hold Kelly Kuhn or Kelly Kuhn Physical Therapy liable for any injury or illness.