At first glance, telerehab and physical therapy do not seem like compatible services. Many people think that visiting in-person is necessary for physical therapy, while telerehab is, by definition, a virtual service. How can a therapy service which is all about the physical body be done over video? However, while some physical therapy services such as manual therapy must be done in a clinic, many physical therapy services do not require hands-on interaction. In most sessions, a therapist watches, guides, and corrects the patient’s movements — something that transfers easily to a virtual environment.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about how telerehab works and how it compares to clinical visits. There are more benefits than drawbacks. Telehealth has proven to be a game changer for helping patients continue recovering during the pandemic. If you’ve wanted to continue or start physical therapy but thought you were blocked by pandemic restrictions, this article will show you what you can and can’t do in telerehab.

What Telerehab Can and Can’t Do

“Telehealth” is a broad term that refers to any kind of medical or health service offered virtually. “Telerehab” is a telehealth service that specifically involves rehabilitation. In a telerehab session, you’re connected one-on-one with your therapist over video. This digital connection can do far more than you think. 

But first, what telerehab can’t do: telerehab isn’t a substitute for a full clinical experience. If you need certain assessments where a therapist needs hands-on evaluation or if there are safety concerns (ie. balance or fall concerns), you will have to visit the clinic.  Also, some hands-on assessments cannot be done over telerehab. A therapist can determine in a telehealth “consult” session whether you need to show up in person. For most assessments, though, video is sufficient, especially if you have an adaptable and creative therapist.

This is what can happen in a telerehab session: your therapist can discuss and evaluate your symptoms, including pain, numbness/tingling, weakness, balance loss, joint range of motion issues, post-surgical issues, and swelling/lymphedema. They can provide a detailed assessment of your overall function and write a treatment plan for your condition. They can help you implement these plans into your daily routine and guide you through exercises to make sure you’re doing them right.  

At Oncology Rehab and Wellness, many of our services can be done over telehealth, especially scheduled evaluations and follow-up visits. The ratio of telehealth to in-person visits is up to you, but if you are at risk of infection, immuno-compromised or too unwell to travel to a clinic the majority of your sessions – or all of your sessions – can be completed over telehealth.  We offer what we call “hybrid sessions” where some visits can be done via telehealth and some can be done in the clinic, to maximize your benefit while keeping you safe. Even if you don’t fall into any of those categories, we often recommend telehealth to our patients simply for the extra convenience and comfort of doing a session from their own home. Telerehab gives you an extra degree of control over your appointments and recovery. 

Why Telerehab? Comparing Telehealth to In-Person Visits

Prior to the pandemic, we had very few telehealth appointments. Patients preferred to come into the clinic and of course the in-clinic experience is a very good one. However, there are several benefits to telehealth that became obvious once we started doing the majority of our appointments that way. Your telehealth appointment will be different from your in-person visit, but not necessarily worse. In fact, surprisingly, we’ve seen some areas where telehealth is actually better for you than showing up in-person.

Telerehab is Safer for Patients with Limited Mobility

If you’re someone with limited mobility, trekking out to our clinic can take a large part of your day and involve quite a bit of planning and logistics. If you’re experiencing fatigue or extra muscle and joint pain, this can compound the difficulty. Telerehab allows patients in similar situations to remain in the comfort of their homes without risking falls, accidents, or simply the inconvenience of transport. Even before the pandemic, this feature of telerehab was especially useful, allowing patients with sensitivity or pain to perform their stretches and appointments from home while remaining under the care of a therapist.

Telehealth Allows Access to More Clinics

NOVA’s traffic, as anyone who lives here knows, can be terrible to navigate, especially in rush hour. Telerehab allows patients who live beyond reasonable driving distance from the clinic to schedule sessions and receive physical therapy when they otherwise would not have come. By cutting down on driving time, telerehab encourages new patients to schedule more sessions and current patients to continue with their regimen. So, if you seek the expertise of a cancer rehab physical therapist (such as at our clinic) but live too far away, telerehab makes a great option.

The Telehealth Experience is Comparable to the In-Clinic Experience

Some patients have expressed worries that a video screen is too small and limited for a therapist to evaluate them properly, but we haven’t found that to be a problem. Our therapists know what they’re looking for, and in most cases, the limitations of a video call are overcome by the closer attention they naturally pay when they’re using video. 

We’re not different in this respect from other clinics, either: other case studies indicate that patients enjoyed the care they received over telehealth services, and in some cases, thought it exceeded the in-person attention they had received. Telerehab continues to provide good experiences through focused communication.

Telerehab Can Lead to Better Long-Term Outcomes

This was a surprising result, but in retrospect, not surprising at all. Patients who stick to their routines will have better outcomes, and since telehealth enables patients to “show up” for appointments even more easily, telehealth makes it more likely that they will have better long-term results. Patients who choose telerehab and telehealth services are more likely to continue with their exercise and nutritional programs. 

How an ORW Telehealth Appointment Works

Our telerehab therapists are the same staff you would see in-person. Our attention to your care is the same whether we’re seeing you in the clinic or over a video screen.

Attending a telehealth appointment is easy: no account setup or password needed. Once you’ve made your telerehab appointment, we’ll send you an email with a link to click, which will open your video appointment, and that’s it. It’s very simple and we’ve seen a lot of success using it.

Determining if telerehab is right for you is your choice, but if you would like to try out an initial telerehab service and get advice for your situation, you can sign up for a free 15 minute consultation here. We have three available options for your care that you can pick and choose to fit your schedule, which you can learn more about here.

Telerehab has helped us stay in touch with patients who would otherwise not be able to meet with us during the pandemic. We are especially grateful for being able to see progress from far away. Whatever you decide regarding telehealth, we’re glad to be able to serve you and provide a safe place to strengthen and improve your health. Oncology Rehab and Wellness remains committed to providing quality care and attention to all of your needs.