Yours in Healing

PT phone home…..

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all contact our health care providers by phone when we had a quick question? We all have questions every once in awhile from the smallest of things like should I use heat or ice? To a bigger issue like what do I do if I mistakenly took two pills? Or is it normal to not be able to sleep and feel itching near my incision site?

Well a physical therapist in England had this very idea and did a pilot study which was published in the British Medical journal in 2013. The results suggest that initial evaluations conducted by phone could speed up waiting times and in the end produce the same patient outcome results.

It is truth that the cost of health care in this country continues to rise, and the average age of most Americans is also steadily increasing. All of us healthcare providers need to explore new ways of delivering healthcare. One suggested not yet well studied or attempted in this country is by screening or evaluating patients initially with telephone interviews.

Everyone knows the population of our area triples in the summer. These visitors and locals still need access to good health care, but wait times can often be weeks and when you are in pain and suffering this may not seem fair or right. One option could be to speed up waiting time by conduction initial screening questions with a phone interview. PT by phone? Seems strange. Seems outside the box. Never been done before. Could it work?

There is a small percentage of the population that could benefit from physical therapy advice but have little to gain from a course of face-to-face appointments. However I would say that this is not the norm by any means.

The published studied in the Jan 2013 edition of British Medical journal involved 2,256 patients aged 18 or over with musculoskeletal problems who were followed for 5 months. There were two sample groups group one consisted of 1,513 patients who all had regular physical therapy evaluations and appointments. Group number two consisted of 743 patients who all had initial evaluations conducted by telephone and access to their physical therapist for quick questions regarding usual care.

The conclusion from this research suggested that physical therapy conducted by phone allowed for quicker appointment times, faster access to advice and treatment which was acceptable to patients and deemed safe.

Further research needs to take place in order to investigate the use of this system where access to physical therapy services could be provided via phone. Continued questions that were not answered by the British medical journal article are: 1.) would patients be truly satisfied with services they received by the telephone? 2.) Would patients abuse this advantage to fast anytime access to their physical therapist?

I enjoyed reading this article and although it did spark my interest, mainly because of the limited health care providers in our area and the large population that visits during the summer months. As a physical therapist who takes a vow to do no harm and prides herself in offering the best care possible, I am always open to trying new approaches to achieve the goals of health and wellness for all. With that said I am not ready to attempt the PT by phone option, but to the brave British who have tried this system already and continue to study how it can become more main stream I wish them good luck.

As always Yours in Healing,

Dr. Rachel Lys DPT