Tucson Morning Blend


Virtual physical therapy may be your new best friend

Posted at 7:58 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 22:58:11-04

With more than half of the U.S. adult population impacted by musculoskeletal (MSK) and back-related conditions, virtual physical therapy sessions are a way for patients to keep on track with their treatment, bringing their sessions to their home.

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In fact, physical therapists can diagnose and treat over 70 percent of MSK disorders virtually. According to the American Academy
More than 1,000 patients at ATI Physical Therapy, one of the nation’s largest physical therapy providers, have used its telehealth service since the program’s launch in March.

Virtual PT also is an effective way to help manage pain, with the goal of keeping them out of the doctor’s offices and emergency rooms during this critical time. It is particularly valuable for seniors, who generally have the most pain and are most at risk of contracting COVID-19.

According to a study in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 68 percent of patients with direct access to PT had resolved symptoms without further medical treatment. Recent studies have shown patients that maintain continuity of care display higher patient satisfaction, improvement and lower related healthcare costs over the next year.

Numerous studies also show that PT decreases costs of other types of pain management treatments including:

  • 89% lower probability of needing an opioid prescription
  • 28% lower probability of having imaging services
  • 15% lower probability of a costly ER visit

ABOUT: Chuck Thigpen is Senior Director for Practice Innovation and Analytics for ATI and Director of Observational Clinical Research in Orthopedics with the Center for Effectiveness Research in Orthopedics at the University of South Carolina. He holds adjunct appointments with Duke University Department of Orthopedics, Division of Physical Therapy, University of South Carolina Department of Physical Therapy, and Clemson University Bioengineering.

Today he leads the analysis and benchmarking for ATI’s Patient Outcomes Registry, the largest in physical therapy with over 2 million patients baseline and post-treatment outcome measures. He has been funded by the MIT research endeavor (MITRE) and Foundation for Physical Therapy for health innovation in development of clinical pathways for orthopedic related pain. He has over 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers published in leading scientific journals including Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, American Journal of Sports Medicine, Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, and British Journal of Sports Medicine and his work has been cited more than 1000 times. Thigpen is a NATABOC certified athletic trainer and a member of the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, American Academy of Orthopedics and Sports Physical Therapy, American Shoulder and Elbow Society, American Society of Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, and The Iccus Society for Sports Rehabilitation.