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Telemedicine

When and how is telemedicine appropriate for physical therapy sessions?

From March 2020 to the current day, I've learned when and how telemedicine can work with the physical therapy profession with respect to treating patients. At first, I was skeptical. I mean, hands-on care is so integral to what I do everyday for my patients. How could I possibly do that virtually?

The truth is: I cannot. So, while I do believe telemedicine is appropriate for physical therapy sessions, I also believe at some point in your care the provider should get their hands on you. It helps with assessment, treatment, and appropriate movement mechanics.

So, when is telemedicine appropriate for physical therapy? In my opinion, there's three answers to that. Immediately after injury, assessing workspace environment and exercise progression.

Immediately after injury

Speaking to a physical therapist right after you roll your ankle, throw your back out, twist your knee, pull your shoulder or whatever is so helpful to know what first steps you can take to speed up your recovery. This point actually comes from a recent experience. I was playing tennis and I felt something pull in my back and then I also pulled my calf. Now, I was very sore the next day but I was able to do all the appropriate and correct things to make sure my injuries didn't get worse and to make sure I healed quickly. Within 2 days, I would've never remembered that I pulled them in the first place. I thought to myself, "This happens all the time to my patients." This always leads to my next thought or comment, "I wish I could have talked to you RIGHT AWAY so I could have helped!" Frequently, physical therapists will be able to ask enough questions about your mechanism of injury and current symptoms to give you advice on positions to be in, light exercises to help, icing, heat, etc that will help speed your recovery and reduce worsening the injury. I am always wishing I could see patients in the first 24 hours of their injury, but the schedule doesn't always allow for that. The likelihood of us getting to do a last minute telemedicine visit within 24 hours of your injury is very very high.