Virtual physiotherapy study shows it is just as effective as in-person treatment

A new study of 27,000 virtual physiotherapy patients has concluded that digital physiotherapy must become a significant part of the treatment mix post COVID-19.
By Sara Mageit
06:49 am
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Credit: Ascenti

The Investigating the Effectiveness of Virtual Physiotherapy report by independent provider of physiotherapy, Ascenti, has captured data on patients’ openness to virtual treatment, pain improvements on a 10-point Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) and satisfaction with outcomes.

Results showed that it is just as effective as and, in some cases more effective than, in-person treatment.

WHY IT MATTERS

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Key benefits identified around virtual treatment included the convenience of not having to leave the house or book time off work, and the ability of digital tools such as videos, diaries and reports to engage patients in their recovery.

The study found that patients who accessed video demonstrations again after the session, achieved the best results overall.

Clinicians found that some patients were more motivated to learn during video appointments as they knew that manual therapy wasn’t an option, and they described how the insight of seeing into a patient’s home helped with exercise prescriptions, too.

The findings measured the average improvement in Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) score for patients accessing the three treatments options and were broken down by the severity level of their injury.

The results concluded that digital physiotherapy is effective as and, in some cases more effective than, in-person treatment and that it must become a significant part of the treatment mix post COVID-19.

THE LARGER TREND

Virtual physiotherapy platforms have been in circulation prior to the COVID-19 crisis, amongst which is UK platform, Physitrack, which landed its first major payer partnership in 2017 and was highlighted for allowing patients to use app-based physiotherapy in lieu of in-person sessions.

More recently, exercise app functions such as Kaia Health’s app-based exercise were shown to be more effective than a standard strategy of individual physiotherapy sessions paired with online education.

ON THE RECORD

Adam Jarvis, Ascenti’s chief operating officer and a physiotherapist, who was involved in the research, said: “The results of this study - potentially the world’s largest study of virtual physiotherapy conducted so far - clearly demonstrate that patients who access digital support to help them with MSK injuries can achieve excellent results."

“There are clearly a number of areas where virtual physiotherapy outperforms in-person appointments. Innovative apps can use a range of digital behaviour change tools to really engage the patient in their recovery journey and the convenience factor could persuade more people to seek out the necessary treatment and stick with it, rather than putting it off. However, in-person care remains a vital service, being more effective for certain conditions and preferred by some patients."

“Deployed together, this combination can help raise standards in the profession and, the evidence suggests, enhance physiotherapy results overall.”

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