Tech site CNET is making the case that technologies such as motion-capture interfaces may be the next big thing in physical therapy, but representatives from APTA are tempering that enthusiasm for virtual reality with a dose of actual reality: there needs to be a real, live physical therapist (PT) involved to evaluate patients and help them get the most benefit from any technology.
In a recent article titled "Hollywood tech lands a leading role in health care," CNET writer Abrar Al-Heeti writes that cutting-edge video technology is "starting to find its way into physical therapy" in what proponents believe are promising ways. The article focuses on the use of motion-capture technology—the same video-based tracking interface that animated the indigenous characters in Avatar—and virtual reality headsets but also touches on simpler technologies including motion-tracking and video games.
The CNET article quotes developers touting the ways in which the new technologies could help patients adhere to and properly perform postoperative home exercise programs. "The patient becomes more engaged in their therapy," one analyst tells CNET. "The patient is able to perform therapy at their convenience, at their own time, and their own location."
Maybe, say Matt Elrod, PT, DPT, MEd, and Hadiya Green-Guerrero, PT, DPT, but not without a PT. Both Elrod and Green-Guerrero are practice specialists at APTA.
"If somebody has a shoulder problem, just to say 'Go do this technology' is really not the best bet," Elrod tells CNET. "What you need is a thorough evaluation…[and] examination to determine where the dysfunction really is."
Green-Guerrero points out that at the end of the day, any technology is a tool—and tools require someone who knows how to use them. "Technology can definitely augment what we do as physical therapists [but] those who use it know that it's not a replacement for a physical therapist," she says in the article.