How To Evaluate Virtual Physical Therapy Patients

Discover simple guidelines for evaluating virtual physical therapy patients. Learn what steps to take before, during and after with Healthie.

There are many benefits to offering telehealth through your physical therapy practice. Physical therapy patients enjoy online sessions just as much as in-person, and it’s a great way to provide flexible, modern care. Successful online physical therapy treatment starts with a thorough evaluation. These simple guidelines for before, during, and after online evaluations will make implementing telehealth services as straightforward as possible.

Before the virtual physical therapy evaluation

Most online initial physical therapy evaluations will be done via video call. If you’re opting for a video session, set up an appropriate space to situate your camera. It should be well-lit, private, and not have any distractions in the background. Before your session, you should also take the time to review the patient’s notes and plan out everything you want to cover with them.

It’s always a good idea to communicate with your physical therapy patient prior to the session. This way, you can make sure they have everything they need and lower the chances of cancellation. Go over any equipment they should have on hand, forms or questionnaires you’d like them to fill out in advance, and how to set up their space. The set-up often depends on pathology. For an elbow injury, they can probably just sit at a desk. For a back injury, they may need to make space to lie on the ground. 

During the PT evaluation

Once you’ve started the call, start by checking that the patient can see and hear you. Once that’s been confirmed, introduce yourself and any other consultants you’ve got on the call. Before diving into remote physical therapy the evaluation, let the patient know what to do if the internet connectivity drops. For instance, you might want to confirm their phone number and let them know you’ll call them if the video stops working.

Most PT evaluation tests and measures will have variations you can ask the patient to do at home. To check power and strength, have your patients perform motions that will resist gravity or self-applied pressure. Taking vitals can be difficult, but many physical therapy patients are able to do their own tests. If that’s proving to be a problem, you could consider providing wifi-enabled tools. Don’t forget to take notes throughout the evaluation. 

At the end of the session, remember to go over all key points with your patient. This is especially important if you had technical issues during the session which might have caused them to miss something. Let them know that you’ll send them a follow-up email with helpful links and resources.

After the PT evaluation

Telehealth physical therapy makes it much easier to provide your patient with digital information after the session, rather than handing them a stack of paperwork. 

After the evaluation, send your patient a follow-up email or message via your telehealth system. Include any resources they need, such as the details of their home exercise program, links to videos showing how to perform an exercise, and other helpful information. Include a link to your booking system, so they can choose a convenient time slot for their next appointment.

Recording sessions, so patients can review them later, is also becoming popular. If you’ve chosen to do this, make sure you’ve gotten consent from your physical therapy patient. After the session, upload the video to a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform, and send them the link so they can easily find it.

Extra tips for physical therapy online evaluations

  • Get creative with equipment. Most patients won’t have access to the equipment that you usually use. Luckily, milk bottles filled with water are good free weight substitutes, and silly putty is great for aiding grip exercises. Get creative with supplies, so your patients don't have to buy too much extra stuff.
  • Keep it simple. Too many complex exercises can get overwhelming for your virtual physical therapy patients. Try to stick to a small number of simple exercises.
  • Learn how to bill for telehealth evaluations. Most insurers now cover telehealth physical therapy, but make sure you check that you’re using the right CPT codes and modifiers when billing for these services.
  • Be patient. Be patient with yourself, technology, and your physical therapy patients. Adapting to telehealth can be difficult, but it does come with so many benefits.

Using Healthie for telehealth physical therapy

Healthie offers HIPAA-compliant all-in-one telehealth software for modern physical therapists. Through Healthie, you can easily:

  • Host secure PT video evaluations on desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile.
  • Record and upload video sessions for your patients to review.
  • Share resources, handouts, video links, and home exercise programs with your patients.
  • Allow patients to create journal entries and securely message you between sessions, so you can track their progress.
  • Generate insurance claims, send them to a clearinghouse of your choice, and track their progress from within the Healthie app.

Try it yourself - start your free trial today.

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