Frequently Asked Questions about Telehealth Physical Therapy

What is Telehealth Physical Therapy?

Telehealth or telemedicine is the delivery of health care remotely and it has been around for nearly 40 years. However, the necessity for Telehealth across the medical field has become much greater since the Covid-19 Pandemic. The physical therapists at Union Physical Therapy have been delivering care via Telehealth since late March in response to Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” policy.

 

Will Telehealth Physical Therapy replace in-person visits at Union Physical Therapy?

Telehealth will not replace in-person visits indefinitely. Union Physical Therapy is following guidance for outpatient physical therapists as set forth by the Washington Department of Health and we are starting to see a small number of patients in the clinic. The guidelines laid out by DOH include only treating those patients in the clinic with urgent medical needs who cannot safely or effectively be treated by Telehealth.

Physical therapy is a profession that relies on physical assessment to identify limitations to be addressed with treatment – some of these assessments can be difficult to do via Telehealth. However, physical therapy also relies on observation of movement patterns, patient education, and home exercise planning – all of these things transfer nicely to Telehealth. Telehealth may be a preferred option in some cases moving forward (see 6 Benefits of telehealth by the APTA Choose PT)

What kind of conditions can be treated via Telehealth Physical Therapy?

Most of the things you would go to the clinic for can be treated via Telehealth with some exceptions. Exceptions may include, but are not limited to, post-surgical cases, acute cases, cases of back or neck pain with referral to the arms and legs, and some vestibular cases. The therapists at Union PT have seen some excellent results with the following:

  • Ergonomic assessments
  • Movement assessments for everyday activities
  • Consultation and education regarding pain conditions
  • Screening for new onset of symptoms
  • Exercise prescription and progressions or modifications of current routines
  • Monitoring exercise performance

Can I have a new patient evaluation via Telehealth Physical Therapy?

Yes. Just like in the clinic, the new patient evaluation will start with a subjective history, review of medical history, movement screen and special tests, followed by patient education and initiation of a treatment plan.

Where does my visit take place?

Your visit can take place wherever you have access to an Internet connection. You can use your computer, smart phone, or tablet. It is ideal to have a quiet place that is private to semi-private.  You will receive an email with a link to access the video platform.

Is it secure?

Yes. We use a HIPPA compliant platform called SecureVideo. SecureVideo uses the Zoom platform to access your device camera. Your therapist will be delivering Telehealth from a private space, either from the clinic or their home.

What should I have available during the visit?

If you are an established patient, it is helpful to have any equipment your PT has asked you to use. If you are a new patient, you might consider having some of the following nearby (if they are things you already have in your home!).

  • Yoga mat or towel or blanket
  • Pillow
  • Chair
  • Exercise ball
  • Foam roll
  • Lacrosse ball or tennis ball
  • Small hand weights (or a can of soup)
  • Resistance bands
  • Small step stool or yoga block

Please do not go out and buy these things prior to your appointment, but if you have them in your house they may be useful during your visit.  During your visit, your PT may make some recommendations regarding equipment you might need.

Wear comfortable clothes that you can move around in. If you are being seen for your knees or ankles, you might consider shorts or pants you can easily pull up. If you are being seen for your shoulder, you might consider a tank top.

Does my insurance cover Telehealth Physical Therapy?

Many insurance companies cover Telehealth services the same way they cover in-office visits. For a complete list of insurance plans that Union Physical Therapy accepts, which cover Telehealth, please visit the Union Physical Therapy website.

What if my therapist did a lot of hands on work or manual therapy before?

Obviously, Telehealth is a barrier to manual therapy. However, therapists are having good success instructing patients in self-massage techniques and in some cases, self mobilization techniques. Although not a perfect substitution for the hands of your therapist, it does empower you towards treating your own condition.

When can I see my therapist in the clinic?

For some cases, you can be seen in the clinic now. Union PT will continue to look to guidance from the Washington Department of Health, Governor Inslee, and the CDC regarding when it is safe to begin seeing all patients in the clinic. If you have questions about whether or not you qualify for an in-clinic visit, please call our office at 206-588-0855 and speak with one of our therapists. You can also email us at admin@unionpt.com.

What are some benefits of Telehealth Physical Therapy?

The APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) has an excellent article that gives six reasons to consider Telehealth.

Have another question that wasn’t answered here? Send it to admin@unionpt.com.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has affected all of us in some way. It has disrupted lives, routines, jobs, households, and plans for the future.   If you have questions about your physical health or function, Union Physical Therapy is here for you. Call or visit us online at UnionPT.com.

 

If you are interested in scheduling a Telehealth Physical Therapy appointment you can do so from our website. www.unionpt.com

 

About the Author: Amanda Benson, PT, DPT, CMPT, OCS has been a physical therapist in the Seattle Area for nearly 15 years. She has an orthopedic clinical specialty certification. During the pandemic Amanda has taken up recreational running and is finding solace in baking.