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Is Telehealth Effective for Physical Therapy?

Woman stretching with the help of telehealth

Many physical therapists and rehab therapists have turned to telehealth recently to ensure continued access to care for patients who can’t make in-person visits. But does virtual care really work as well as visits to the clinic?

After completing a data-driven study of a hybrid care cohort at Alliance Physical Therapy Partners in which patients were using a combination of MedBridge Telehealth Virtual Visits and in-person visits, we found that a hybrid care model was in fact more effective than in-person visits alone.

The Benchmarks We Measured

  • Number of in-person vs. telehealth visits
  • Duration of the episode of care
  • Wait times per episode
  • Total reimbursement per episode
  • Patient satisfaction scores
  • Patient-reported outcomes
  • Patient functional improvement

The Results We Found

47% – Reduced Cost per Episode of Care
For patients using a combination of telehealth and in-person visits, the cost per episode of care decreased by 47 percent

93% – Improved Pain Levels and Better Function
Patients consistently got better using a hybrid care model. In fact, 93 percent experienced a decrease in pain and 98 percent made functional progress towards their goals.

32% – Fewer Visits
Hybrid care decreased the total number of patient visits needed per episode of care by 32 percent.

60% – Shorter Wait Times
With wait times for telehealth visits 60 percent shorter than for in-person visits, patients using telehealth got much faster access to care.

86 – High Patient Satisfaction
Alliance patients reported high satisfaction with the flexibility, convenience, and quality of care they received. Results included an NPS score of 86 and a telehealth survey score of 4.5 out of 5.

Looking Ahead: What Does this Mean for Practitioners?

Until now, virtual care has been an unfamiliar and unproven tool for many physical therapy practices. But as its use has expanded and its true value has been demonstrated, practitioners can experience:

  • Greater utilization of telehealth as an effective care delivery tool now, and in the future
  • Improved efficiency of care due to reduced cost per episode combined with excellent patient outcomes
  • The ability to expand access to care even after COVID-19 to patients who are disabled, live in rural locations, are stretched for time, or are otherwise unable to visit the clinic.
  • Better care delivery by providing the right care at the right time to a patient population, while scaling levels of care more effectively.