There is a new category of telemedicine popping up called Tele-rehab in which physical rehabilitation services are provided via an app or web platform. Companies like Telespine, Simple Therapy, RespondWell, and Rezoom are changing the way people access and utilize traditional services. Reflexion Health has even created an at-home rehab service based on the Xbox Kinect. Here’s a look at where this burgeoning field is heading.
When you have an ache or pain that won’t go away you head to the doctor who might prescribe physical rehabilitation as your treatment plan. This requires you to find an in-network therapist, go to an office and spend an hour or two there, all of which needs to be worked into your busy schedule and their availability.
Then there are the pains and injuries that don’t even earn a visit to the clinic. Ninety percent of people will have low back pain at some point in their lives. Most people don’t seek the care of a doctor until the pain has become chronic, but often this is too late.
Now with new telemedicine apps like Rezoom, RespondWell and Simple Therapy, there is a new way to approach rehabilitation services. These apps help those who have injured themselves find a step-by-step solution to their dysfunction/pain on their time in the comfort of their own home. The apps help you identify the source of your problem, and then puts you on the path to recovery using a combination of daily exercises and user feedback. Should you need the help of a medical professional they can even refer you to a local professionals for further medical assistance.
The most prevalent reason why people do not seek appropriate rehabilitation treatment is time and money. Tele-rehab solutions aim to remove both of these barriers.
In addition to at-home recovery, tele-rehab opens the door to more robust “pre-hab” – a concept which has emerged as a new area of focus in the rehab space. More and more healthcare providers and systems are conducting pre-surgical evaluations on patients where they determine strengthening exercises to be performed prior to surgery. This allows the development of end-to-end pre- and post-surgical care plans. Studies have shown that flexibility and strength prior to surgery is directly related to success rates after surgery. If someone is weak and tight prior to surgery, they are likely to be weak and inflexible after surgery, and this increases the risk that a person may damage other surrounding joints. Prehab can improve strength and flexibility prior to surgery to improve outcomes.
Tele-rehab is poised to be one of the next great frontiers in telemedicine. Whether these apps are utilized as stand-alone services or embedded into larger telemedicine service offerings like virtual doctors visits, there are millions of patients who can benefit from the technology. And as the Baby Boomer generation ages, the needs will only grow.