When the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the everyday use of telehealth to replace in-office medical appointments, the demand for virtual physical therapy sessions also grew.
Virtual physical therapy brings benefits for users who may be recovering from surgery or injury, including knee, back, shoulder, or other musculoskeletal issues. Patient benefits include increased access to treatment from any location, lower costs, and greater flexibility for scheduling appointments.
During virtual physical therapy visits over a computer, smartphone or tablet, a therapist typically supports a patient through exercises and stretches designed to strengthen core muscles that support recovery from pain or injury and improve mobility and overall wellness.
Some health insurance plans go beyond video calls and use apps for self-paced programs, such as the Kaia Health app that guides members through physical therapy exercises, mind-body relaxation techniques and educational videos.
“The apps typically use a front-facing smartphone camera and artificial intelligence technology to analyze a user’s movement patterns while performing exercises,” says Dr. Mimi Hartker, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare in southeast Florida.
“The platform gives real-time tips for carrying out safe, effective exercise sessions that typically last between 10-25 minutes. If, at any point, a certified health coach is needed, one can be accessed using an in-app chat feature,” she added.
Check with your physical therapist and health insurance plan to find out if you qualify for virtual physical therapy visits.