Physical therapist discusses pros and cons to televisits

Doctors said in-person visits for physical therapy seem to be more effective.

HOUSTON – Physical therapy can range from the most critical needs like those for stroke or brain injury patients to the patients needing to restore range of motion after knee or shoulder surgery.

Depending on the injury or the patient, PT may or may not have been on hold during coronavirus but Memorial Hermann says it’s important for a lot of patients to get back in for face-to-face visits now.

For those in the vulnerable population, who physical therapists wanted to protect by keeping them home, they met through the computer or phone.

“We’ve had many patients that we’ve kept in contact with via the phone who are surprised by how much value is derived from weekly check-ups by phone,” Brian Duncan, physical therapist and director of Memorial Hermann Shepherd Square IRONMAN sports medicine institute. "These patients, particularly those in the at-risk health categories, are suddenly more interested in and convinced of the potential value of telehealth visits. I think we will look back and see that this pandemic significantly reshaped health care delivery models in a beneficial manner for patients.”

However, he said, they’ve also come to appreciate the benefits of hands-on, in-person visits and wants patients to feel comfortable returning to finish physical therapy in order to prevent future problems.

“Missing exercise for a few weeks is not a big deal but in some of these patient populations, it’s a significant setback that can result in knees stiffness, shoulder stiffness, that could ultimately result in a second surgery or a result less than desired when it didn’t have to be that way,” Duncan said.