Home health professionals, how many times has the following happened to you?
I recently got a call from one of my patients. (I’ll refer to him as Steven for privacy.)
With a very concerned tone in his voice, Steven told me that something was seriously wrong. The conversation then turned into frustration for both of us after just a few minutes as he had a hard time explaining what the situation was exactly.
I eventually figured out that the problem centered around one of Steven’s exercises. It was really painful for him to do that day, though it previously wasn’t causing pain at all.
After a few more minutes of conversation, I realized I would not be able to get enough specific information to help Steven on the phone. I had no choice but to rearrange my home health schedule to see him that day.
I arrived at his home. Within a few quick moments of observation, I was able to see he was doing some of the exercises incorrectly and quite excessively. Thing is, he didn’t realize it. In his mind, he was just exercising!
A few small changes in his form and some re-education from me and Steven was back on track.
Searching for a Solution for Home Health and Outpatient PT
If you’ve been a therapist for any length of time, this scenario has undoubtedly happened to you, probably within the last week I’d bet.
In your home health case(s), maybe it was excessive drainage from a surgical wound or swelling in a joint or area that wasn’t there the day before. Or as in Steven’s situation, perhaps it had to do with painful movement from an exercise they have been doing previously with no issues.
In the past, the way to solve this problem was to have the patient come into the office if you are at an outpatient clinic or, like me, rushing out to see him or her as soon as possible if you work in home health.
I know from experience that many of these scenarios end up being non-emergencies once you get the patient in front of you.
But more often than not, there’s no way to really know exactly what is happening during a phone call because the home health patient is panicked or unable to clearly explain what is happening.
This is not a good feeling.
In the event the situation is serious, precious time is wasted in trying to figure out when you can see them. In other cases, you might “play it safe” by suggesting they go to the ER because you aren’t able to see them immediately.
Well, that was then in home health. This is now.
Faithful readers of this space know I recently began to consult with In Hand Health a few days a week in addition to my home health duties.
Getting immersed in the general idea of assisting physical therapy with technology (telehealth, telemedicine, or whatever name you want to call it) is personally exciting to me.
But specifically here with In Hand Health and the company’s solution, it has become something I can actually put into practice.
So let’s take another look at a situation similar to Steven’s and other patients who are in need of assistance between sessions. A solution such as the one here with In Hand Health makes it more manageable for the therapist and the patient.
From a technology perspective, it would be convenient to send texts and pictures about a situation like Steven’s. However, texting using standard smartphones isn’t HIPAA compliant and a huge no-no.
With In Hand Health, secure HIPAA-compliant text messaging, including images and video, is standard. So if Steven could have sent me a quick video clip using In Hand Health, I would have helped remotely in less time and without having to schedule a visit.
Another benefit of this approach is that in other, less serious situations, questions can be answered at a time that works best for you as the therapist.
Maybe a patient is wondering about something with their condition or if they are doing their HEP correctly. They can send a text (video, image or audio clip too) rather than trying to catch you on the phone or tying you up in a lengthy conversation.
Then when you have a spare minute or two, you can respond — securely and efficiently — without having to schedule a visit.
I see this secure communication as the most immediate way I can mix a telehealth technology like In Hand Health into my workflow.
Keeping Home Health Patients Engaged for the Long Term
Up next, I am intrigued by the In Hand Health subscription option.
This is a new approach for most of us, but I can see the potential for growing a practice and building long-term patient relationships with it.
Say physical therapy has formally ended. You can keep your secure digital connection with a patient through In Hand Health by leaving them active in your account.
This would enable you to offer a wellness program, for example, complete with regular custom video exercises and instructions.
You also have the option to charge a subscription fee for your services during care or post care delivered in the In Hand Health solution on a patient-by-patient basis.
Patients you select pay you through the In Hand Health Patient App with a credit card. The solution even lets you set your own prices and terms (monthly or annual). It can also be at a price where the patient is receiving value and I feel compensated for my time.
In addition to the exercises, this post-care option (subscription or free) allows you to stay in touch via secure messaging. That way if further treatment is needed or a new condition arises, the clients are already engaged. They are able to easily contact you for an in-person visit.
Most importantly, this ongoing connection provides patients such as Steven some comfort knowing I am just a (secure) text away.
As physical therapy care evolves, it is good to know we can still be high touch along with high tech.