Are you suffering from a musculoskeletal (MSK) condition like low back pain? If so, you may have heard about the new treatment on the block - digital physical therapy.
Digital physical therapy is very similar to regular physical therapy but it is delivered remotely using technology like video conferencing, mobile apps, and wearable devices.
Are you considering trying virtual physical therapy? If so, you're not alone. More and more people are choosing to receive their physical therapy care virtually, and for good reason. Telehealth is increasingly being used to make access to care easier and more fair for everyone and it also seems to help keep costs down for consumers.
The Growing Physician Shortage And Increasing Lack Of Access To Care
The shortage of physical therapists is already being felt in many parts of the USA. In some areas, it can take weeks or even months to get an appointment with a physical therapist. What's more, as the demand for physical therapy continues to grow this shortage is only going to get worse.
Rural Americans make up about one-fifth of the population and these numbers are rising as people leave expensive urban centers for a more affordable life. Unfortunately these rural areas are often underserved by physical therapists.
An American Medical Association (AMA) editorial regarding projected physician shortages of 37,800 and 124,000 by 2034 specifically talks about telehealth and the broader use of technology as potential solutions to the problem. Telehealth has the potential to help reduce the burden of care for providers as well as increasing access to care for patients.
What Are The Benefits Of Virtual PT?
If you're looking for a convenient, affordable, and flexible way to receive physical therapy care, you might be wondering if virtual physical therapy is worth it?
Virtual physical therapy offers consumers a number of benefits, including convenience, affordability, and flexibility. With virtual physical therapy, you can receive care from the comfort of your own home, at a time that's convenient for you. You'll also save money on travel and parking costs.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reported an increase in telehealth visits from 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million in 2020 during the pandemic. 'In 2021, 37% of adults used telemedicine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'.
While this was a huge rise, 2022 saw more of a leveling off when it came to the use of telemedicine.
Reasons Why People Like Telemedicine
Interestingly enough, one area of telehealth did not see a levelling off - mental health.
“[Patients] don’t have to deal with transportation,” Randall says. “They don’t have to leave work. They don’t have to take time off. There are just so many things that make it easier to engage in therapy now.”
Some Of The Top Reasons People Prefer Virtual Therapy:
Easy Access: 60% of patients rate "quick and easy access to providers" as their main reason for using virtual care.
Convenience: 56% of patients like the fact that they don't have to take time off work (or other responsibilities) to travel to appointments.
Expanded Access To Care: 31% reported that telehealth gave them access to providers who were far away from them.
Top Reasons Why Healthcare Professionals Like Virtual Care:
Better patient access: 57% said that it gives them better and easier access to their patients.
Improved Flexibility: 55% believed that remote work gave them more flexibility in the workplace.
Expanded Access: 43% like the fact that they can serve patients in rural/remote areas.
Is Virtual Care As Effective As In-Person Care?
So, how effective is digital physical therapy? Research has found that virtual PT has been shown to be just as effective as traditional PT for a variety of conditions. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that virtual PT was even more effective than regular PT for people with chronic low back pain.
Another study that was published in June, 2022, in the Archives Of Rehabilitation Research and Clinical Translation found that out of 978 participants, 'Digital PT was associated with clinically meaningful improvements in pain and function among a diverse set of participants'.
The authors of the study believe that the effectiveness of digital physical therapy could be caused by its 'emphasis on active, evidence-based interventions that focus on therapeutic exercise and education'. These early data are an encouraging indicator of the clinical benefits of digital PT.
How Much Does Traditional In-Person Physical Therapy Cost?
The cost of traditional in-person physical therapy varies depending on a number of factors, including:
The location of the physical therapist
The type of insurance you have
The severity of your condition
The number of sessions you need
In general, you can expect to pay between $50 and $100 per session of traditional in-person physical therapy. If you have health insurance, some of the cost may be covered. However, you may still have to pay a copay or deductible.
How Much Does The Average Digital PT Session Cost?
The type of digital physical therapy program you choose
The number of sessions you need
The severity of your condition
Your insurance coverage
Because digital physical therapy is relatively new, there isn't a lot of information on average costs for the treatment. Some companies offer it free of charge, while others may charge as little as $50 per month. We have listed some of the key players in the industry and the costs of their programs below.
The Cost Of Hinge Health
The cost of Hinge Health's program varies depending on a few factors, including the type of plan you choose, the number of sessions you need, and your insurance coverage.
Self-pay: If you do not have insurance, you can pay $995 for a 4-week program or $1,495 for an 8-week program.
Employer-sponsored: If you have employer-sponsored insurance, the cost of Hinge Health will vary depending on your employer's plan. Some employers may cover the entire cost of the program, while others may require you to pay a copay or deductible.
Health insurance: Some health insurance plans may cover Hinge Health, but the coverage may vary depending on your plan. You can contact your insurance company to find out if Hinge Health is covered and how much you will have to pay.
Omada Health's digital physical therapy program costs $99 per month. This includes unlimited access to video chat with a physical therapist, as well as access to a library of exercises and stretches. Omada Health also offers a variety of other resources, such as educational materials, support groups, and a blog.
If you have health insurance, you may be able to get a discount on Omada Health's program. You can contact your insurance company to find out if Omada Health is covered and how much you will have to pay.
Sword Health's digital physical therapy program is free for members of employers or health plans that have partnered with Sword Health. If you are not a member of an employer or health plan that has partnered with Sword Health, you can still access the program for a monthly fee of $199.
Sword Health's program is designed to help people recover from a variety of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions, including low back pain, knee pain, and shoulder pain. The program uses a combination of video chat with a physical therapist, at-home exercises, and wearable sensors to track your progress.
If you are interested in learning more about Sword Health's program, you can visit their website or contact their customer service team.
Conclusion - Is Virtual PT Worth It?
Virtual PT is a convenient and effective way to get the care you need, without having to leave your home. Digital PT programs can also lessen barriers to treatment for patients with comorbidities, such as obesity, behavioral health disorders, and urinary incontinence, that make travel to providers’ offices and interaction with the health care system onerous.
Virtual physical therapy is more flexible than traditional physical therapy. You can schedule appointments around your busy schedule, and you can even take your therapy with you on the go.
How To Prepare For Your Virtual PT Appointment
If you're considering virtual physical therapy, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, make sure that you choose a qualified physical therapist who is experienced in providing virtual care.
Second, be sure to have a good internet connection so that you can participate in your sessions without any problems.
Finally, be prepared to be an active participant in your care. Virtual physical therapy is a two-way street. You'll need to be willing to follow your therapist's instructions and complete your exercises at home.
So, is virtual PT worth it? We'll let you be the judge!