By now, you may have heard of digital MSK (dMSK) care, an effort by investors and some in the rehab therapy industry to reach more musculoskeletal (MSK) patients through the development and use of digital tools.
Many of the larger efforts in this space – Silicon Valley-type brands like Hinge Health and Sword Health – take the form of digital subscriptions and apps that provide self-guided instruction to help people more effectively address musculoskeletal pain and limitations.
Through these brands, MSK pain sufferers gain greater, more convenient and more cost-effective access to self-assessment tools, exercise management and wellness support. Their goal of using technology to help more people access tools that may enable them to live better, pain-free lives is truly commendable.
It also meets the demands of modern healthcare consumers – people who are more willing to utilize digital solutions that offer greater accessibility and convenience.
Digital MSK in Private Practice
On the private practice side of rehab therapy, digital MSK is taking on a slightly different form, one driven more heavily – and on the local and regional levels – by patient engagement and outcomes.
These efforts are like those in Silicon Valley in that they lean heavily on technology. And for rehab therapy practitioners who survived the recent pandemic, it may surprise them to learn that it’s possible – likely even – that virtual programs and services have already been implemented at their clinics.
By offering such services, these clinics are taking extraordinary steps toward achieving the goals that can transform the delivery of physical therapy care by:
- Making musculoskeletal care and rehab therapy more accessible convenient and cost-effective to the public.
- Lowering the personal barriers of time, distance, availability and socio-economic status through the use of technology.
So how might your practice be already implementing elements of digital MSK care at your clinic? Here are some examples:
Providing Telehealth / Telerehab
Once a controversial option for engaging with patients, the use of telehealth blew up during COVID-19 when in-person care just wasn’t possible. By 2021, in fact, telehealth use had increased 38 times from pre-pandemic levels.1
And while research continues to evaluate the best ways telehealth can and should be used in rehab therapy, the availability of virtual appointments has largely become commonplace.
As such, clinics have found that connecting with patients via computers and smartphones can complement in-person care, leading to fewer missed appointments, improved patient outcomes and a stronger bottom line. It also enables clinics and patients to overcome issues related to mobility, scheduling issues and transportation.
Developing a Remote Therapeutic Monitoring Program
Another important digital innovation that’s becoming a central component of private practice success is remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM), or the use of a digital device or tech-based services to monitor patients between visits.
The goal of RTM, of course, is to enhance patient engagement and compliance throughout the course of care – not just during scheduled visits – ultimately leading to improved outcomes.
Clinics that utilize RTM often see increased revenue as more patients complete their plans of care. RTM services can be billed through Medicare as of 2023.
Prescribing Digital Home Exercise Programs (HEPs)
Home exercise programs have long been a critical aspect of delivering successful rehab therapy treatments. Yet, compliance around such programs has historically been low – around 50% according to some estimates.2
This lack of adherence can have detrimental effects of clinical outcomes, possibly causing some patients to self-discharge from a long-term plan of care.
Digitized home exercise programs can help combat these numbers. Clinics have found that by sending exercise plans remotely, with video demonstrations, program updates and reminders, patients may remember and be more motivated to complete these exercises.
Utilizing a Patient Portal
Patients today want to be empowered with choice and immediate access to information. Digital patient portals provide this, enabling patients to review records, schedule appointments, set appointment reminders, access home exercise programs, pay their bills, and even connect with a rehab therapist.
Often, portals also enable users to complete patient forms digitally, on their own time, making processes more efficient for both the patient and clinic administrators.
Patient portals provide yet another way for clinicians to engage with patients, ensuring they’re being heard, their needs met, and their goals achieved.
To learn more about digital MSK in private practice and how you’re rehab clinic can use technology to better engage with current and future patients, let’s talk!
1 McKinsey & Company, “Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?” July 9, 2021
2 National Library of Medicine, “Patient Involvement With Home-Based Exercise Programs: Can Connected Health Interventions Influence Adherence?” March 1, 2018