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A woman conducting physical therapy exercises via telehealth with a licensed professional.

Telehealth for physical therapy

Physical therapy and remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology can help you gather and analyze health information without a face-to-face appointment or in-person testing.

Practical applications

With RPM, an individual’s health and medical data can be collected and transmitted in real time to a health care provider.

The latest RPM technology for physical therapy often comes in the form of mobile applications. These apps guide patients through exercises and monitor their movements to ensure they are doing them correctly. The data is transmitted directly to your EHR system, and the patient receives real-time feedback and tips as they perform the exercises.

Bluetooth-enabled “smart scales” are also popular with patients because they can connect to wearable fitness tracking devices, among other reasons.

Selecting an RPM technology vendor

As an advocate for your patients, it’s important to consider any technology-related obstacles. Make sure to ask these questions when you are considering adopting a new RPM platform or app, experiencing significant troubleshooting, or renewing a contract with your current provider.

  • What languages are available? If only English is available, you may have to provide or purchase translation services for patients who do not speak English.

  • How does the system address potential digital literacy gaps in its users? Any vendor you partner with should have easy-to-read instructional resources available to help patients use the platform.

  • What devices can access the program or platform? Some patients may not have access to computers or mobile phones, or may not be computer literate; they will need alternatives for tele-PT monitoring.

Remote patient monitoring vs. Remote therapeutic monitoring

As telehealth becomes a more essential component of the health care system in the United States, the classification of certain services continues to evolve to best fit the needs of patients and providers. For physical therapists and their staff, remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) is one of those new classifications.

According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), “new RTM coding was created to allow practitioners who cannot bill [remote patient monitoring] (RPM) codes to furnish and bill for services that look similar to those of RPM”.

The main difference between RPM and RTM is the type and amount of data collected. Unlike RPM codes, which only cover physiologic data (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature), RTM codes monitor and collect non-physiological data, such as “pain tolerance” and “medication adherence.”

More information

List of Telehealth Services — from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services