We have found very solid ways to work with clients remotely during this pandemic & we too are surprised that it actually works as well as it does!
Prior to April 2020, we had assessed or treated less than 100 people through virtual physiotherapy sessions. Now 100% of what we are doing is delivered safely and securely from a webcam. Clients do not need to drive in & even better, if someone is living in a remote area away from skilled care – it is now just as available to them as it is to someone in Downtown Red Deer or Edmonton, living close to a clinic.
I think we are in un-charted waters for all therapists in the World right now as none of us have been through this before, delivering “manual” therapy without a “hands-on option”.
We Really want people to know that your therapist is there for you during this time. With face-to-face Virtual Physiotherapy Meetings through Telerehab, you can still get to know the therapist and feel comfortable sharing with them. The therapists feel helpless unless you reach out, as they have great skills to help, and want people to know we will be as creative as we can to make that happen for you. The worst thing, is that we have a lot of people saying, “I’ll just wait until this whole thing blows over and then give you a call”. The problem with that is that you may be delaying a simple care plan and even making something worse or permanent by waiting. We are finding that most clients only need 1-2 sessions to get key tools to keep moving in the right direction.
We needed to move fast to come up with viable & secure options for reaching clients and this nimbleness is the true entrepreneurial spirit in action… we find a problem & try to solve it for our us and our customers.
A lot of the insurance companies that we normally direct bill to were not even covering virtual physiotherapy at all in March 2020. But after a few weeks and many calls to insurance companies, we have finally turned a corner and almost all have changed their rules to allow it to be covered under Private Insurance Plans, Motor Vehicle Accident Policies and Disability Plans.
Physiotherapy Alberta recommends a price structure similar to in-clinic visits due to the fact that the therapist’s time is still just as valuable as it was and the set-up for the appointments takes time. A clinical therapist is seeing less than ½ of the clients that they were used to based on what is possible in a day with the lag in technology & the fact that they cannot utilize clinical assistants and admin support to help them directly, in person. The therapist is not paid for set up time and if technical issues arise the appointments are re-scheduled. Heavy internet usage during the day can create a hiccup that we can do nothing about. While this new Virtual Therapy allows flexibility to see patients remotely, the low daily client numbers, the lag time between appointments and the resistance by some to think it’s a true option for them – is all placing a huge financial strain on many therapy practices.
After COVID19 is behind us – this type of continuing care will live on! We know that it will save time and create an option that wasn’t previously available. Think of remote towns where they are struggling to get expertise to move in and stay… now Doctors and Therapists alike will be able to see anyone in the Province from their office or home. Some things will never be able to be seen through a virtual visit but many things will be.
by Melanie Tuck (President Collegiate Sports Medicine Inc)