By Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT
COVID-19 forced many businesses to temporarily close this spring.
FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, however, was not one of them. Physical therapy is an essential service that is medically proven to relieve chronic pain, improve recovery after surgeries or falls, improve balance, eliminate headaches and more.
The origins of physical therapy date back more than 200 years. As research and training improves, physical therapists have evolved to provide more comprehensive and holistic services.
The coronavirus, however, may have launched another evolution at FYZICAL – telehealth.
Although video communications aren’t new, telehealth hasn’t necessarily been embraced across the medical spectrum and among insurance providers. Many patients need or prefer the interaction of a traditional in-person appointment, but certain at-risk individuals – like patients undergoing cancer treatments or those with underlying medical conditions and compromised immune systems – might not feel comfortable venturing into a public setting for treatment, especially as COVID-19 lingers in our communities.
Across our company, patients can still see a physical therapist face-to-face, but now they can book appointments for visits through video teleconferencing. FYZICAL quickly rolled out training programs that showed therapists and clinicians how to effectively deliver telehealth services over video while still creating a customized plan of care. Training sessions also highlighted protocols for managing paperwork, patient safety and home program development.
Telehealth provides patients with access to the health care they need without putting them, or their therapists, at risk. Here is what a telehealth visit looks like:
• Patients call their local FYZICAL office to make an appointment, like usual, but specify they are requesting a telehealth visit.
• FYZICAL will provide a link that launches a secure video connection for a private, one-on-one conversation via a computer, tablet or smartphone.
• A clinician will discuss a patient’s current treatment plan, persistent issues and any new pain or symptoms that have arisen.
• Patients will be shown exercises or activities to complete at home so they continue enhancing their health and wellbeing.
FYZICAL’s telehealth service isn’t a dial-a-doc program offered through insurance companies that patch you through to a physician or nurse practitioner one call at the time. Instead, you’ll connect virtually with the same trusted clinicians you see at the local office. The only difference is that they are providing counsel through electronic means instead of face-to-face.
“It’s actually been a fun experience,” said Luke Gumpert, a telehealth patient under the care of Dr. Jeremy Beasley in Fort Myers. “I’m still sticking with Dr. Beasley even though I moved back to Naples.”
The availability of telehealth means Luke doesn’t have to drive 45 minutes or more each way for physical therapy appointments. It also allows continuity of care since he and Dr. Beasley already established a solid patient-doctor relationship.
Physical therapy is much like going on a diet. Skipping a visit compares to hitting up a buffet or having a “cheat day” – it can derail progress.
Recently, major insurers have begun allowing physical therapists to bill for most therapy procedures delivered through telehealth. This is a big win for patients and removes an obstacle that often impedes recovery.
For generations, innovation has been the key to delivering high-quality health care. The early success of FYZICAL’s telehealth program is a strong indication that the future of health care might have already arrived.
To learn more about FYZICAL or find the nearest location, please visit FYZICAL.com.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT, is president for company-owned operations at FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers, which has 427 locations in 45 states.