Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

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

Best practice guide

Telehealth for physical therapy
For providers Best practice guides Telehealth for physical therapy

Preparing patients for tele-physical therapy

Proper planning can help set your physical therapy patients up for success.

Patient preparation

Providers can do several things before, during, and after appointments to help patients feel comfortable and prepared for delivering successful treatment.

In addition, consider an online filing system to organize patient information. Include an electronic folder of therapy exercise media or home programming for each session that can be easily shared with the patient for later use.

Educate patients

Select a member of your staff to take the lead in educating patients. Consider someone who is technologically savvy, a good communicator, and aware of the applications of tele-PT. Connect with patients during a low-stress time to test the connection, download software, and change settings if necessary. Use this time to discuss the flow of the appointment, troubleshooting plans, and the expectations of the PT program.

Lifestyle factors

When scheduling appointments, consider the patient and their family’s daily routine, including meals, rest times, and medications. If the patient has a caregiver, schedule the session at a time that works for all parties.

Pre-appointment communication

Prior to the appointment, let the patient know what items, equipment, or homework to have ready and available in the space where the visit will occur. You may send packets of instructions, exercises, therapy plans, and therapy items to the home or email and instruct the patient and family to find items to use in upcoming sessions.

Reminders

Send reminder messages days ahead of the scheduled encounter and minutes ahead. Many telehealth platforms have virtual waiting rooms, making this convenient for patients and therapists.

Remind family or caregivers with small children or other distractions that therapy time is dedicated to the patient and their therapy goals. Recommend that they turn off the TV and other distractions and give therapy priority.

Spotlight

Boston University and Washington University

Boston University’s Center for Neurorehabilitation and Washington University in St. Louis recognized the opportunity to improve care by incorporating technology into Physical Therapy treatment. The Physical Therapists created a program that uses a mobile telehealth app to increase exercise and treat people with Parkinson’s disease. Patients first have an in-person physical therapy visit, when the Physical Therapist designs a personalized set of exercises and a walking regimen for the patient to follow at home. The therapist films the patient doing the exercises and creates a personalized program for the patient on the app that the patient can complete from their own home. Using data, questionnaires and tools from the software, the therapist can continue to adjust and personalize the exercise program remotely. In the pilot study, participants increased their activity by 10%. In this subsequent larger trial, funded by National Institutes of Health, over 100 patients have been enrolled thus far.

Read more about the program here exit disclaimer icon .


Last updated: September 14, 2022

Sign up for email updates

Get updates on telehealth
delivered to your inbox.