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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Can Physical Therapy Be Video-Conferenced?

Published February 14, 2011 10:22 AM by

I have been waiting for months and months to purchase an iPad. I actually don't really need it and admittedly will probably not use it as much as I think I would. I just love Apple products! They are so clean and cute. Now, if I commuted to work on a train or bus I could use the iPad during my commute time. Or if my job included a lot of presentations or papers, I could do all those on the iPad on my couch instead of sitting at a desk. But I don't commute on a train and my job doesn't require any papers or presentations. I've thought of a million reasons to justify such a luxury purchase but haven't been able to buy one yet. I'm hoping one of my many secret admirers will send me one for Valentine's Day.

Anyway, some of the Apple websites have hinted about the features of the next iPad 2. It will be faster! Thinner! Cheaper! And it will have both a front camera for video conferencing and rear camera for taking photos. (Of course, another reason I need an iPad - for video conferencing with my distantly located mother!)

This leads to the next question - what role do you think video conferencing will have with physical therapy? Can you imagine a set of five videos leading a knee-replacement patient through the rehab process? Instead of home therapy visits, could both the therapist and the patient log onto a video to discuss remaining deficits? While I am not discounting the critical impact of hands-on, I think discussing the progressions in technology can assist our profession in providing even better care. Pre-recorded videos and live video options could be very beneficial for our patients to review correct exercise form or as a forum if symptoms flare.

Although I wasn't a clinician in the 1990s, I am sure the early development of computer use and Internet were not immediately integrated into physical therapy practice. As we now know, computers and Internet are critical to most PT clinics. There are some hospitals that use tablets similar to iPads for their live documentation. Imagine - using an iPad at work!

The possibilities of technology impacting our profession are guaranteed. How do you imagine these inventions changing your job?


Hey Lisa, great thinking!

I'm currently taking an online Master's programme, not in PT, but so much of our lecture material could be done via video conferencing. The brilliant aspect being that it is archived and can be reviewed at my leisure. That is something that can't be done with a live lecture.

I also just finished a skills course that was taught, in part, with DVD's to demonstrate proper form for evaluating certain systems. That could also have been done via video conferencing.

As for portable technology, I've used laptops and tablets for nearly a decade now for documentation of home visits. They allow real time updating of patient notes and immense convenience.

Certain areas of tele-health have proven very valuable in speech therapy. My concern with provision of therapy via video is there is no way to stop something before someone does it wrong. When you are hands on, you can direct through tactile cueing which is a completely different way of demonstrating than just the visual. I work with older adults and hearing and vision issues play a large role in my concern as well.

Technology has a place, most definitely, but it will never replace real hands on interventions.

Cheers, Dean

Dean Metz February 15, 2011 12:16 PM


Great Post.

Some telemedicine is developed for PT's and PTA's in rural areas in relation to PT state mandated visits.  I will look into this further because I could see it take off in areas where PT's are badly needed.  

Outpatient therapy has a great potential to capitalize on the interactive aspects of therapy but if it is not marketed right patients will not use it.  If patients use the interactive sources they have to be extremely motivated as well.  I could see a hybrid option with a patient coming in once a week after viewing (and doing) the exercises so the therapist knows the patient is progressing appropriately.  Now we need to convince the insurance companies we can bill for telemedicine.  

Jason Marketti February 15, 2011 1:00 AM

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February 14, 2011 1:42 PM

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