TRAKEVENT: Digital physiotherapy, fashion or trend?
Last Wednesday, we had the opportunity to experience a great event at TRAK. Something that we believe should be a cause for discussion among scholars and influential figures in the digital physiotherapy sector and healthcare in general.
From the hand of four of the most interesting influencers of the moment and most representative of the sector, we address the issue of digitalization in physiotherapy, trying to find out whether the emergence and implementation of new technologies in the field of rehabilitation had its peak during the pandemic or whether it is here to stay.
It would not be the first time that a technique or instrument appears briefly, only to fade away due to difficulties of implementation in clinical practice or simply because the industry was not prepared.
But nowadays, the emergence of health apps in various medical disciplines and, yes, especially since the pandemic, it has, in our opinion, generated an upward trend that should be seen as an opportunity for renewal and evolution in the healthcare field.
For this reason, from TRAK we wanted to make this digital physiotherapy event. To determine together with our speakers whether digital health is here to stay or it is still too early for it. Among them were Maelan Fontes, Laura Flix, Raquel Delgado y David Trenado.
Is digital physical therapy a reality or did it have its moment with the pandemic?
Our four speakers agreed in that it is, indeed, a reality.
Some as Maelán began prescribing tele-rehabilitation treatments before the pandemic and admit that they too were not convinced at first. “I started about a month before the pandemic because a fitness acquaintance told me about it, but the idea didn’t sit well with me. “Then I started to read evidence on the subject and realized that was something that had been done for 10 to 15 years in Canada or Australia and I decided to embark on the realization of the project.”
In general, the fundamental idea that emerges from their interventions Although it is not suitable for every type of patient, because some of them have more complex pathologies that require a more exhaustive care by the physiotherapist, it is not suitable for every type of patient, tele-rehabilitation is a tool that facilitates the work of healthcare professionals and ensures proper patient monitoring.
“There must always be beta systems that test the model and make it evolve so that there is a praxis with it and faults are found. The online patient usually comes with a basic education that other applications have given him, and making a classic patient see the advantages of digital physical therapy when he is used to a face-to-face model is complicated. That’s why it’s important to educate.”, said David.
Is the industry reluctant to implement a digital work model?
Perhaps one of the most important questions of the event. The feeling that the physical therapy sector is still immature in terms of implementing technology that changes the usual work patterns in clinical practice.
“In fact, there would have been two resistances, that of the ‘physio’ and that of the patient“. As in any change we will always find proactive people who want to implement it as soon as possible and, on the other side, people who want to stop it.
On the patient’s side we must understand how society sees physiotherapists and that a patient who asks you for online physiotherapy is because he has heard that it works and in the case of professionals, well, it is because they have heard that it works who is still willing to change, who is still willing to improve or those new professionals who are emerging and are encouraged by this model of work, they do implement it, but it requires a change of mentality, “a change of resources and a patient education effort that requires time and effort”.,intervened intelligently Laura Flix.
Maelán indicated that he also sees a barrier in the session-based business method that currently exists in physical therapy and that he has migrated to a program-based model in which he bills by complete treatments rather than by daily sessions.
What features are essential in a tele-rehabilitation software?
As experts in digital physiotherapy, our speakers have analyzed and tested many programs and applications created to introduce remote rehabilitation treatments, such as TRAK, and have a very interesting point of view on the ‘must’ that a good tele-physiotherapy software should have.
“My basics are a good exercise base or, failing that, it allows you to upload your own exercises because when the patient sees his physiotherapist on the screen he feels more accompanied, it is more real. Then that allows you to monitor patient progress at all times and that allows you to make video calls and to include a chat with which you can communicate with the patient. Those 3 things: Chat, exercises and monitoring“, said Raquel.
They also emphasized that it should be intuitive and easy to use for the patient, since it is also a question of patient empowerment tools: “the online format forces you to give the patient tools and let them ‘get on with it’ because then it will all be active work.”, pointed out Laura.
Is digitalization a logical step in the training of new generations of physiotherapists?
Yes, as we have been talking about, education is a fundamental part of the implementation of a digital work model in physiotherapy, it would be logical to think that a digitization course should be introduced in the curricula of physiotherapy faculties.
It is even possible that the new generations of physiotherapists are already necessarily redirected to this digitalization. David, as a teacher, he expressed it as follows: “new generations of physiotherapists are incorporating digital physiotherapy because of the amount of technological resources available to them. Even in my classes, students are able to refute a scientific article I teach them on the spot, which generates debate and facilitates learning. So I believe that “today’s students will be common users of digital physiotherapy in the future.”
Conclusions of the #TRAKEVENT
TRAK has gathered 4 interesting conclusions from this event that are quite relevant to us:
- The digital physiotherapy is the future of physiotherapy and it is important to implement it in clinical practice.
- The introduction of digital working models in physiotherapy guarantee the universalization of the service and empower the patient.
- While a fully digital physical therapy model is a novel and interesting business model, our speakers concluded that, currently, the best way to do physiotherapy is a hybrid model that combines tele-rehabilitation with face-to-face treatment.
- The biggest barrier to the implementation of digitization in the sector is the fact that physical therapists do not know how to implement it and the population does not see it as a tool of the physical therapist. For this reason, professionals and patients need to be educated to assume the role that technology can play in physical therapy.
Allow us to end with one of the interventions of David Trenado which we believe perfectly matched the spirit of the event: “The technological world is coming to assist, to implement, and sometimes even to correct. And we need ‘Quixotes’ to test these systems, to find possible errors and profile them to ensure their implementation”.