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Toni Talks about PT Today

Computers Are a Part of PT

Published April 2, 2009 7:43 AM by Toni Patt
My computer was down for a few days.  Three calls to the manufacturer later and I'm back up and running.  Being computer-less was an eye-opening experience.  It made me realize how much I've come to depend on mine.  I had to stop and think about how to do things, like check the weather, do my homework and check the news.  A few years ago, I would have had to stop and think how to do those things with a computer.  The experience also made me realize how much physical therapy has come to depend upon computers.  I can remember the days when everything was done with pen and paper.  The introduction of the fax machine was a mini revolution when it came to communication with physicians, insurers and other facilities.   The introduction of the computer changed the way we did things.

Many of the hospitals in Houston have gone to a paperless system.  The one I'm working at is among them.  The only thing written on paper in the chart is the physician orders and daily notes.  Everything else is on the computer, including all therapy notes.  Without computer access, I couldn't begin to treat a patient.  There was a steep learning curve when the hospital went live with the system.  Since that time, things have gotten much easier. Physicians are forced to dictate everything. That means everything is in the chart in a timely matter and legible. I have access to all radiological results and current lab values. I can look up therapy notes from previous admissions by merely clicking on a box. This is a major improvement from the previous system.

The age of computers isn't limited to hospitals.  I've worked in SNFs and OP clinics that are computerized.  A few years ago when I worked OP, the only thing computerized was billing and the schedule.  I think paper will practically be a thing of past there in a few years, if not sooner.  OP clinics have a lot to gain from going computerized.  Third-party payers won't be able to deny claims because they can't read notes.  They won't be able to nitpick about missing information if templates are used that have spaces and prompts for all necessary data, including basics like the pt's name, MD, diagnosis, POC, frequency, etc.  It's too bad the cost of installing the necessary hard- and software is so high.

PT schools are taking advantage of computers and the internet as well.  Many transitional DPT programs are 100 percent online. Both of the local schools here have part of the curriculum as online classes in addition to traditional classes. Exercise programs are available to generate written programs that can be translated into different languages.  That's really helpful here in Texas where half of the population doesn't speak or read English.  I've also seen programs that act as translators to help communicate with patients.

It's obvious physical therapy would be much different without computers.  I have a new appreciation for mine now that it is working again.  I'm sure there are many therapists out there who remember the day when we didn't have computers.  I'm also sure there are many newer graduates who can't remember a world without computers.  Until I sat down and though about it, I didn't realize what a difference computers made and how much we've come to rely on them.

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