Latest findings, published in Physical Therapy Journal, offer robust demographic and medical profiles of patients treated via telehealth during pandemic
PITTSBURGH, PA – April 23, 2021 – Key insights for payers and providers about the use of telerehabilitation services during COVID-19 were highlighted in the latest research from Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes (FOTO), a Net Health company. The findings were published online ahead of print in the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Physical Therapy Journal.
The descriptive study, based on a recent national FOTO data set of 222,680 patient records, provides details on how and to whom therapists provided telerehabilitation treatment during the coronavirus pandemic. It is the first peer-reviewed journal publication in a series of FOTO’s telehealth research efforts and strengthens the case for the continued acceptance of telerehabilitation by rehab therapists, consumers, healthcare plan sponsors and payers. It also sets the stage for future effectiveness studies on telerehabilitation care and patient outcomes compared to traditional in-person clinic visits.
FOTO has provided outcomes management software for rehabilitation therapists since 1994. The FOTO database used for the study encompasses some 24,000 providers, 12,700 clinics and 36 million patient assessments.
“Telerehabilitation has rapidly emerged as an alternative care model to traditional in-person office visits over the past year as a result of COVID-19,” says Mark W. Werneke, PT, MS, Dip. MDT, lead author of the study article and a clinical research scientist on the FOTO team. “In the current study, we aimed to establish descriptive results, using large sample sizes and rigorous analytic methods, to provide detailed and robust information on the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of telerehabilitation. We examined and described patient types more likely to use telerehabilitation, the frequency of use, and the kinds of telecommunication technology employed.”
About the Telehealth Study
The sample analyzed for the study took place between the second and third quarters of 2020.A descriptive retrospective observational design was conducted to examine patient variables and outcomes, including physical function, number of visits, and patient satisfaction, by telerehabilitation frequency (few, most or all visits) and telecommunication modes. The outcomes described were physical function change, number of treatment visits during the episode of care from intake to discharge, and patient satisfaction with treatment results at discharge.
The study results provide new knowledge about how and to whom telerehabilitation is being used during the pandemic in outpatient rehabilitation practices throughout the USA. Major findings include:
- Six per cent (6%) (n=13,059) of episodes of care in the sample incorporated some level of telerehabilitation. Of those episodes receiving telerehabilitation, 75% of cases used telerehabilitation in addition to in-person office visits, compared to 25% of cases in which only telerehabilitation treatment was used.
- Approximately 37% of the 13,240 therapists involved in the sample used telerehabilitation.
- Telerehabilitation was more likely to be used during the second quarter of 2020 (10%) compared to the third quarter of 2020 (5%), a finding the authors speculate may be partially due to loosening of mandatory COVID-19 restrictions later in the year.
- Patients treated using telerehabilitation compared to in-person care were more likely to be younger, exercise more, have lower medical comorbidities and live in large metropolitan areas.
Broader Research Implications
“These were fascinating and important findings for our industry, especially rehabilitation providers and payers,” noted Werneke. “The descriptive research findings support the appropriateness of the FOTO database to contribute future studies on associations between telerehabilitation care and patient outcomes. The researchers’ finding of limited and decreasing use of telerehabilitation over the study period suggests additional studies are needed to better understand facilitators and inhibitors of telerehabilitation use by therapists during everyday practice to promote its use when clinically appropriate.”
For more information on the FOTO telehealth study, contact Deanna Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Physical Therapy Journal article, “Telerehabilitation During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Outpatient Settings: A Descriptive Study,” here.
About Net Health
Net Health provides software and analytics for specialty medical providers across the continuum of care. Net Health’s interoperable solutions ensure compliance, improve outcomes, empower providers and inspire care. The company serves over 14,000 facilities, including the largest hospital chains and skilled nursing facilities and many leading hospice organizations and private practices. Net Health is a portfolio company of The Carlyle Group, Level Equity, and Silversmith Capital Partners. www.nethealth.com.