Defining Telehealth, Helping Rural Patients, and Saving Clinics Money

Defining Telehealth, Helping Rural Patients, and Saving Clinics Money

Published on Author Mark SpencerLeave a comment

In Hand Health recently completed a regional tour of state physical therapy association conferences where we staffed demonstration tables in Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas.

We enjoyed meeting numerous physical therapists and PT students and sharing our telehealth solution with them during our stops. We hope we delivered some value along the way.

Here are three quick takeaways from our travels across the Midwest.

Cloud Cartoons

“Telehealth” Might Be the New “Cloud”

The majority of the In Hand Health team is made up of software industry veterans who have been in the trenches through the rapid rise of technology into the mainstream – from DOS systems to client-server, from the Internet to mobile. So you can imagine office humor around here is most often on the, well, nerdy side of things.

One of the most common joke threads around the water cooler is the confusion around the computing term “Cloud” and how everyone seems to have a different definition of what it is, if they know what it is at all.

After our discussions at these recent shows, we think it’s possible “Telehealth” is quickly catching up to the “Cloud” as being the latest buzzword with multiple meanings and confusion.

Many attendees at the conferences had heard of telehealth but admitted they didn’t know exactly what it was. For those who had some familiarity with the word, a common definition was a live patient-to-practitioner video conversation over the Internet, like a FaceTime or Skype call.

From In Hand Health’s perspective, telehealth is a bit more robust.

Taking our guidance from the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers and similar organizations, we consider telehealth to be any system that leverages web and mobile technologies to enable secure information exchange between patients and physical therapists in separate locations to facilitate and monitor treatments without having to be face-to-face.

We also believe the Skype-like experience many of our attendees described is closer to the NCTRC’s definition of “telemedicine”, where traditional clinical diagnosis (not necessarily treatment and monitoring) is delivered by technology.

Like telehealth, telemedicine is quickly finding its place in the healthcare landscape with companies like Teladoc becoming more mainstream. But comparing the two terms and recognizing the NCTRC and similar organizations are advising policy markers, payers, and the public on these technologies, we believe telehealth is a better descriptor for our particular solution at this time.

So, anyway, that’s our interpretation of telehealth vs. telemedicine. It can be a fine line between the two and these terms could very likely become interchangeable (tomato vs. tomahto) in the near future. Let us know in the comments below if you see it differently.

A Sample of a Rural Patient's Possible Highway

The Time is Now for Telehealth in Rural Areas

We have suspected from the inception of In Hand Health that a physical therapy telehealth solution would be a win-win for patients and PTs in rural areas and we were glad to hear our notion was correct.

Especially in the regions we just visited, travel time for most patients with any chronic medical condition is required to reach the specialists they need.

For a physical therapy patient, this is especially difficult given the strong possibility sitting in a car for a prolonged period is simply not comfortable. Add in the out-of-pocket costs and time away from work and family associated with repeated trips to the clinic and it’s easy to see why PT can be a challenge in the rural areas of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and other parts of the country.

Telehealth to the rescue!

We were pleased to demonstrate how a physical therapist can quickly equip a patient with a precise video-based home exercise program from their smartphone or tablet during an initial office visit. (No print-outs to interpret or lose.) From there, we showed how the PT is able to monitor a patient’s compliance with the HEP and receive feedback in real time while either party can easily contact the other through secure video, text, photo, or audio messages.

It’s an affordable and easy-to-implement solution for clinics and patients to cut down on travel time and costs while ensuring rehabilitation stays on schedule under the direction of a PT between office sessions.

Several clinics in these areas opened a free In Hand Health account as a result of these conversations and are putting it through its paces now. You can open a free account also right now or contact us if you would like to know more how In Hand Health can assist your clinic with rural patients.


Tip: How to Save Hundreds in Expenses Immediately

I had just completed my In Hand Health pitch to a physical therapist at our table during the NPTA show in Grand Island when the conversation switched to the patient experience.

I explained how PTs use our Physical Therapy In Hand product to build and deliver home exercise programs while the patient used the tightly integrated In Hand Health Patient App to receive the HEP and communicate with the PT in between sessions.

“Just about everyone has a smartphone or tablet these days,” I said. “It’s usually no problem to get a patient up and running during their first session.”

“I agree that most have a phone,” said the physical therapist. “In fact, my customers’ cellphones saved my clinic $300 last month.”

A bit unsure of what he meant, I asked for clarification.

He explained his clinic has a room with several treatment chairs and training tables where patients received electrical stimulation and ice bags. To make patients comfortable during their treatments, he had stocked the room with a small refrigerator with soft drinks and water, a TV, and several magazines.

Aside from putting a few cans and plastic bottles in the recycle bin on occasion, he noticed the room hardly ever looked used despite numerous patients using it every day. The TV was never on. The magazines remained in the same orderly pile.

“It finally dawned on me,” he said. “Every single patient pulled out their phone upon walking into that room and didn’t so much as look up until their treatment was over. I finally cancelled those magazines and that cable outlet. $300 back in my pocket just like that.”

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