In a descriptive study that’s already been featured in 14 news stories, Mark Werneke, PT, and colleagues analyzed data on more than 222,000 patients in the Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes database. According to Editor-in-Chief Alan Jette, PT, PhD, FAPTA, the study contains fascinating, timely findings addressing "some really important questions that we’ve all been talking about but [up to now] we didn’t have much data on." Werneke and Jette talk in depth about the relatively low use of telerehabilitation in the outpatient population studied — which is especially curious, Werneke says, “in light of the explosion of interest reported in the telehealth literature as the result of COVID-19.” He notes the American Physical Therapy Association’s recent member survey findings that indicate the opposite about telerehab use. What might those differing results mean? If telerehab is used more often for patients with orthopedic conditions than for patients with neurological conditions, why is that? Is selection bias at work, or something else? Why does patient satisfaction with telerehab appear to be lower than that for office visits? And, what do readers need to know to avoid overinterpreting the findings? For Werneke, one takeaway from the study is that physical therapists need to “think outside the visit box.” Telerehab isn’t for everyone, and the initial evaluation is critical to teasing out which patients are likely to get the most benefit from it.
Author Mark Werneke, PT
PTJ Editor in Chief Alan Jette, PT