2020 has proven to be quite a roller coaster of vast and massive changes in the physical therapy industry, as well as the healthcare industry – as a whole. Though the year is not quite over, physical therapists have had to quickly adapt to a multitude of changes. These range from physically shutting down their practices due to COVID-19 to integrating telehealth/virtual health into their treatment regimens. While it is true that the development of the pandemic resulted in most of the trends that took place in 2020, many of these will have a prolonged impact on the industry. Here, you will be introduced to the 10 biggest trends in the industry that took place in 2020.
- The Integration of Patient Safety Practices
While patient safety has always been a strong emphasis among professionals in our industry, this year has been the year where we have had to place a focus on improving the techniques we utilize to keep our patients safe. In 2020, the focus has been based on controlling infection and controlling disease – due to the coronavirus that emerged in China in December of 2019.
Examples of our new duties included – but were not limited to – wearing additional personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting our practices more regularly, screening our patients for COVID-19, encouraging patients to wear masks, and creating barriers in our clinics across the nation to ensure social distancing.
- Adopting Telehealth/Virtual Services
Originally offered as a service at the expense of our patients, most insurance companies started covering telehealth/virtual services to patients in 2020. Just between the months of March and June, it has been estimated that approximately 9 million patients received some type of telehealth service from a medical provider. Of these, many were physical therapy services.
Not only did this help in keeping therapists and their staff safe from becoming infected with COVID-19, it also helped patients avoid the possibility of becoming infected. It has proven to be quite productive and this trend is likely to continue in the future.
- The Utilization of Gaming Apps in Physical Therapy
Many physical therapy practices started integrating and utilizing gaming apps as a way to encourage their patients to engage in their exercise and rehabilitation services in 2020.
Not only does this help to alleviate stress that a patient may experience, but it was found that it helped excite and stimulate patients. This aids in ensuring that patients are motivated to continue with their treatment until they reach the ideal level of improvement.
Many therapists have utilized Nintendo Wii games. Others have used specially-designed apps such as PT Pal and/or PT Timer. The success that has resulted from the use of these gaming apps solidifies the fact that they will continue to be used in the future.
- Home Physical Therapy Services Have Become a New “Norm”
Due to the public health crisis, many physical therapy practices have now expanded to home care services. This is a very safe way to provide patients with the care that they require and reduces the risk that patients will contract COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
While this type of service has resulted in a few challenges for the actual therapists -such as travel time, excessive use of personal protective equipment, and consistently having to clean and sanitize equipment that must be used in each appointment – it has been proven to be highly effective for patients. It not only prevents the risk from exposure, but it also results in higher comfort levels for the patient.
Additionally, it is a productive way to ensure that patients complete their exercises and reap rewards from their physical therapy treatment plan.
- New Services Offered by Physical Therapy Practices
When the shutdown occurred, many services were put on hold that were not considered to be “medically necessary”. Two prime examples included elective surgical procedures and physical therapy. Naturally, this financial loss detrimentally impacted our industry. As a result, many – actually most -practices had to become quite creative in what services that they offered, as well as their marketing techniques.
This diversification of services not only helped in encouraging patients to reach out to physical therapy practices, it also resulted in insurance companies providing coverages for those services. As a result, PT practices were able to come back online and continue working with their patients, which increased profits.
- Technological Improvements
All physical therapy practices have a main focus. That is, to provide high-quality care and to encourage positive end outcomes for the patients that they service.
While many challenges were faced in these areas in 2020, practices became creative and started integrating patient face technology equipment into their practices.
Examples include products that use technology to track patient activities and even state-of-the-art exercise equipment, such as those pieces that use technology to interact with patients.
This not only helps patients remain safe from the risk of exposure to potentially dangerous infectious diseases, it also holds them to a higher level of accountability in successfully completing their physical therapy program.
Many changes have taken place in 2020. Because of these changes, new trends have emerged that offer creative solutions to a multitude of issues. Examples include keeping physical therapists and other staff safe, keeping patients safe, optimizing the care that patients receive, and boosting the outcome of the patient. Insurance companies are quickly adapting to these changes and it is likely that many of the trends outlined in this guide will not only continue to be a part of our industry, but they will be improved upon.
If you would like to keep on top of the latest trends, techniques, and treatments, or you would like to connect to others in the industry to collaborate or discover resources that will help in your practice, you may join us today at Colorado Physical Therapy Network. To learn more about what we offer, or to sign up for our network, simply click the following link now: https://coloradophysicaltherapynetwork.com/