Image from Simon Price
Wikipedia defines Telehealth as “the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies.” Over the past decade, telehealth has been embraced by virtually all aspects of medicine – from dentistry to neurology.
About 4 years ago, Infinity Rehab encountered the following situation: A lone therapy department, located in Washington State, was primarily staffed by a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA). The issue with this is that in the state of Washington, every patient needs to be seen by a Physical Therapist (PT) every 5th visit for a formal assessment of the patient’s rehabilitation progress.
We were having a difficult time finding a PT to complete the 5th visit on a consistent basis. One solution was to pay a Washington licensed PT from Oregon to drive up to the facility, complete the 5th visit and then drive home. This solution was expensive and wasted a lot of the PT’s time. The PT could have been administering care to a patient instead of spending hours on the road driving between therapy departments.
So, what to do? Tim Esau, PT and Director of Compliance, looked into the possibility of doing 5th visits via Telehealth. After researching various solutions, he contacted Global Media Group, Inc. regarding their webcam, speakers and software for conducting Telehealth visits. Infinity Rehab purchased the equipment and began testing how the remote visitation process would work.
Tim then approached the State Physical Therapist Licensing Board of Washington to get approval to conduct 5th visits via Telehealth. The State Board requested a demonstration and decided (after months of Tim working with them) that the Telehealth approach to care satisfied the State rulings on 5th visits.
The way it works is the PTA brings the patient to the gym and calls the PT via Telehealth. Once the connection is completed, the PTA gives a synopsis of what is happening with the patient, what the concerns are, and the PT can ask questions or observe part of the therapy session that day. The PT then documents the visit and makes recommendations as needed.
- Compliance with state regulations for 5th visits.
- No drive time/expense for therapist
- Therapist can work on other jobs while waiting for the visits to occur
- Therapist can talk to the patient and visualize activities if questions arise (stand up, walk, observe a contracture, etc.).
- Therapist cannot have hands on with the patient
- Patients who are bedbound cannot be seen, as they need to come to the gym/office where the webcam is.
- Cannot bill for therapist’s time (we are working on this but the PTA’s time can be billed because the patient is there and are discussing the patient’s progress).
Infinity Rehab has been successfully conducting 5th visits via Telehealth for about 3 years now for multiple facilities throughout Washington. Two Physical Therapists are currently trained on the aspects of Telehealth: Tim Esau and Joan Brassfield. This is an exciting development in therapy and Infinity Rehab looks forward to expanding this program as the need/opportunity is found.