One of the major focuses of health care reform is boosting patient engagement and helping people to be more involved in their own treatment plans. As a result, patients can benefit from increased interaction with their health care. Physical therapists need innovative ways to engage with their patients, and mobile apps and other tools can help. Known as mHealth, these initiatives enable a stronger relationship between health care providers and patients.
Fortunately, technology has made engagement easier. Here are some ways physical therapists can add mobile technology to their practices:
Ninety percent of American adults own a cellphone, according to Pew Internet Research. With this high market penetration, text messages may be a viable way send appointment reminders. Depending on the demographics of your practice, patients likely are comfortable with texting, though clinic staff should always ask patients for permission before contacting them in this manner.
Automated text message programs are relatively inexpensive to deploy, according to Physicians Practice. Another way they can apply to physical therapy is by sending encouraging messages to patients in recovery. Because treatment plans are often based on milestones, positive words can help.
Mobile has a great deal of potential for physical therapists.
While activity tracking devices are most frequently used for weight management treatment, they are particularly relevant for physical therapy. For example, fitness apps can send data to physical therapists and help patients set and keep goals. Because physical therapists may need to adjust treatment plans as patients progress, activity trackers can provide deeper insight. This approach may be particularly effective for athletic-based clinics or practices that specialize in obesity management. However, this may lead to an excessive amount of patient data, so clinics should exercise caution when considering this approach, Physicians Practice stated.
Activity trackers may even help physical therapists motivate their patients. While these devices don’t necessarily make people more fit, studies have indicated people who track their activity are likely to get more exercise, according to St. Alphonsus Physical Therapy. Fitness trackers can help patients set and keep their goals.
Patient portals are crucial for increasing patient engagement because they create a digital interface for physical therapists and patients. Individuals make payments, read documentation and send forms via this channel. While many health care providers use some form of patient portal to send information to individuals or conduct billing, there may be a larger opportunity to bring this technology into the mobile realm. With the high number of people who own smartphones, patients may want a system they can access on the go, and a mobile app for a patient portal provides this capability.
Rather than waiting until patients come in for their first appointments, front-office staff can direct them to the online portal to fill out pre-visit paperwork. This saves times, which can leave a favorable impression with patients.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.