Remote physical therapy less effective than in-person delivery of care

by | Nov 2, 2022

The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine has released information that details the effectiveness of in person physical therapy appointments, compared to remote appointments. Due to COVID-19 pandemic limits on in-person care, physical therapy saw a strong uptake in telehealth utilization among patients alongside many other healthcare disciplines. With the peak of the global pandemic behind us, and in-person care being readily available once again, the researchers involved sought a comparison between in person and remote appointments in terms of patient access and satisfaction.

The study’s main objectives were to assess patient satisfaction with virtual PT and utilization patterns. Data from 59,461 in-person and 2,016 telehealth visits from a single physical rehabilitation institution were examined by researchers in the process. All visits took place in the period from March 2020 to December 2021. Physical therapists were instructed to work from home commencing April 2020, and the center did not reopen until September, where rigid social distancing policies were adopted. Additionally, information was derived from 1,012 patient satisfaction surveys was gathered for research.

Statistics of patients

By working through the data, researchers discovered that telehealth PT patients were statistically held the traits of the following:

  • Older
  • White
  •  Female
  • Medicare enrollees who predominantly spoke English

Individuals who used telehealth were approximately five years older of those who opted for in-person visits. Females made up 60.6 percent of telehealth users and 54.8 percent of in-person users, respectively. Additionally, telehealth users were more likely to be white, just under 70%, higher than that of in person appointments. English was the first language of 99.2 percent of telehealth users, compared to a similarly high figure of 98.1 percent for individuals who utilized in-person services. Additionally, a higher percentage of telehealth patients (20.3%) than the 16.1% had Medicare insurance.

Results

Telehealth patients were less likely than in-person patients to refer physical therapy appointments, at seventy-five to eighty nine percent, respectively, according to the patient satisfaction study. The poll revealed that telemedicine patients rated their visits significantly lower than the group who visited in person. The lack of satisfaction is also highlighted by the percentage of virtual PT appoints, which decreased from 6.9 percent to 0.9 percent between 2020 and 2021. Researchers concluded that telehealth may not be the best method for treating physical therapy patients based on this data and the survey findings. The researchers states that lowered satisfaction should not be held in high regard for in terms of telehealth physical therapy appointments for patients with restricted access or time.

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