Telerehab: Preparing physical therapy students for an ever-evolving profession
Access to a physical therapist could be within arm's reach thanks to telehealth technology. Telerehab uses email, phone calls and videoconferencing to connect patients with physical therapists.
For more than five years, Todd Davenport, program director and professor of physical therapy, has been involved in the development and implementation of video appointments at Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Patients can receive care in the comfort of their own homes, and Davenport has seen an increase in the number of patients who prefer this option. Telerehab also can be very beneficial to those who are homebound, live in a rural area or otherwise have limited access to physical therapy services.
"Telerehab can be used to access physical therapy expertise where it might be scarce," said Davenport. "You could set up a telemedicine clinic in a village or smaller population center, which could then be used to connect people to health care experts in larger cities or even other countries."
Pacific's Department of Physical Therapy has collaborated with BlueJay Mobile Health Inc. of Pleasanton, California, to provide a platform for doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students to gain hands-on experience with telerehab. BlueJay Mobile Health's mission is to improve a patient's experience through the use of mobile technology. While its technology can be utilized by health care professionals in a number of fields, for the initial development process, the company focused on physical therapy.
"We started with physical therapy with the idea that physical therapists will send personalized video prescriptions to patients with instructions of home exercises they can incorporate into their routine," said D. Tony Zhang, president and CEO of BlueJay Mobile Health.
The platform known as BlueJay Engage also provides a communication module for messaging and an artificial intelligence-powered module for an instant, advanced assessment of movement and range of motion. This allows for real-time video evaluations and access to patient exam data without an in-person visit.
Through this collaboration, DPT students will have access to cutting-edge technology and the thousands of training exercises that are part of the BlueJay Engage platform. In turn, Pacific's physical therapy faculty will offer feedback on ways the platform can be fine-tuned to better meet the needs of patients and physical therapists.
"The goal is to improve patient outcomes by giving them motivation for better self-care," Zhang said. "We look forward to deepening the relationship with the University, using this collaboration to enhance teaching opportunities and serve students and patients."
By harnessing the power of these advanced technologies, physical therapists can deliver high-quality care in a way that is much more convenient for patients.
"A lot of people focus on the technological aspect of telerehab, but at the end of the day, it's all about taking care of people," said Davenport.
about the author
Dua Her is the Director of External Relations and Professional Development at Pacific's Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy.