By: Christi Williams, PT, DPT, OCS, Cert. MDT
I think we all can agree that the year 2020 has been chaotic to say the least. We have all felt increased stress, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty about what the future will bring.
When will it all end?
When will things return to “normal”?
Will it ever return to what it once was?
Or will there forever be a “new normal”?
These are all questions we have asked ourselves at Nashville Physical Therapy as well.
Overall, we at NPT, have been fortunate throughout the pandemic because we have not had to change our business model. You see, we have always believed in one-on-one patient care visits without double-bookings or assistance from support staff. Therefore, the concept of social distancing fit our model perfectly. We do not operate in a busy, crowded clinic setting, so we didn’t have to change a thing about the way we operated (other than the obvious face mask thing). Little did we know that our efforts to provide high quality patient care would the very thing that would ultimately keep our patients safe with less risk of exposure to others during a pandemic.
But for those few weeks (which felt like an eternity) when the world seemed to come to a screeching halt due to safer at home requirements, we knew we needed to pivot, and pivot quickly to find a way to continue to serve our patients from a distance.
Fortunately, we were already using a great patient management and documentation system, called PT Everywhere. This system allowed us to pull the trigger on providing telehealth or “virtual” care with one quick phone call. Seriously, within a day or so, we were providing HIPAA compliant virtual care to continue to serve our patients safely.
While we were thrilled to be able to provide virtual care so quickly, we (along with PT’s across the globe), were figuring out the whole virtual care thing as we went. There were very few PT’s providing care via telehealth methods prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. State practice acts didn’t have rules and regulations around telehealth methods for physical therapy, and many insurance companies were not reimbursing for this type of care. Again, this did not hold us back at NPT. We decided a long time ago that we were not going to allow insurance companies to dictate the care we provided to our patients, so once again, we found ourselves in a great place to move quickly in this new and uncharted method of care.
Now clearly, there are certain things that can only be done in-person when it comes to physical therapy care. And of course, there are certain conditions in which virtual care is not ideal or even recommended. But on the flip side, virtual care allows us to reach people and help people that we never would have been able to reach otherwise. For instance, those individuals who do not live locally, or even those who do but have such a busy lifestyle that they really cannot afford to take the time away from work to travel to and from a PT appointment.
But even with the realization that we can now reach so many more people, our providers at NPT have never been okay with providing “standard” care for our patients. We strive to provide exceptional care. Therefore, just simply being able to provide virtual care wasn’t good enough for us. We instantly decided that if we were going to do it, we wanted to be the best that we could possibly be at it. We did not want to use telehealth methods as a short-term solution to a global pandemic. Instead, we wanted to revolutionize the future of our business by providing virtual care in a manner that paralleled the quality of our in-person sessions.
One example is highlighted this month in the October edition of the APTA magazine. Our very own Christi Williams spent valuable time this summer focused on “finding a better way” to provide objective physical therapy assessments via telehealth methods. As an associate professor in the school of physical therapy at Belmont University, Christi wanted to research a simple solution to provide objective joint range of motion measurements when unable to do so in-person, in a clinic setting. Given that the Covid-19 pandemic placed a halt on formal research studies, Christi & Stacey Lindsley, a colleague of hers at Belmont, performed some pilot testing of a virtual measurement technique with plans to perform a full research study once restrictions are lifted and in-person research studies are allowed to resume. In the meantime, the APTA magazine published their methodology to help PT’s across the nation improve the objectivity of the assessments they are performing virtually. You can read the publication below.
The moral of the story?
1. When one door closes right in your face, do not let it stop you. Look around. There is always another door ready to be opened. You never know….it may end up leading to a better future.
2. Serve others to the very best of your ability. All the time. No matter the circumstances.
3. Keep looking for a better way. Adapt. Grow. Innovate.
4. Share your ideas with others. You never know when the impact may be exponential.