The Role of Digital Physiotherapy in Modernizing MSK Treatment - MedCity News

Musculoskeletal pain includes various conditions affecting the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissue. Injuries, such as fractures from falls, can cause sudden, severe pain and are prevalent in older populations. Common conditions include tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or any pain that affects bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, or muscles.

MSK conditions are a leading cost driver of global health spending. As the population ages, there is an increasing need for physical therapy (PT) services; however, the usual ways we provide PT in the treatment of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions have not kept pace with the American public, who increasingly want access to virtual care.

Actually one research showed that 47% of adults say they would prefer to use telehealth services in the future, and that number jumps to 55% for those who have used telehealth in the past. In addition, a study of Medicare beneficiaries with new-onset low back pain found that there was a lower risk of subsequent use of medical services among patients who received RT early compared to those who received RT later.

Digital RT services, long offered in Europe but new to the US, offer US patients a new way to access RT and have given US health plans a way to reduce costs compared to conventional RT. Research shows that digital FT offers similar or better health outcomes than traditional FT.

one study analyzed the effects of two different home programs after total knee arthroplasty. At the end of the eight-week program, participants in the digital intervention group had an improvement of 10.47 seconds on the Timed Up and Go test six months after surgery, while the traditional PT group had an average change of just 5.08 seconds. Another study demonstrated the success of digital RT in the treatment of shoulder pain. Patients who completed the digital intervention had a 54.8% reduction in reported pain levels.

Digital PT also improves health equity. one study reported that disadvantaged groups, such as those with lower levels of education, lower income, or those in rural areas, used PT less than the non-disadvantaged population. Another study analyzed clinical records and national census databases to examine the impact of offering free van rides to patients attending PT outpatient appointments. The authors found that the availability of free van transportation was associated with increased patient attendance at an outpatient PT clinic. While transportation assistance is an option to reduce discrepancies, virtual PT is a more straightforward option to resolve this discrepancy.

Digital PT services actively address coverage gaps in the traditional PT market. Innovations such as digital PT offer quality services that offer similar, if not better, health outcomes while reducing costs, increasing patient satisfaction, and addressing social determinants of health (SDOH).

Photo: Liubomyr Vorona, Getty Images

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