Like many professions, medicine has had to adapt to life in a pandemic. One of the ways that many medical practices are maintaining visits with patients is through telehealth, online health services in which a doctor talks to a patient through a video call.
Louisa Physical Therapy began offering telehealth services to patients at the end of July, following two months of preparation and training.
Dr. Melissa Bloomer, who volunteered to be the first person at the clinic to take on telehealth patients, says that the service has been better received than anticipated.
“I thought it would be slower at first,” she said. “We’re almost saturated with patients.” The clinic plans to add a second doctor to see telehealth patients in the coming weeks.
Telehealth services have been available for some time now, but they have grown dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. They have been a particular draw for more high-risk patients, allowing them to speak with a doctor and do exercises and therapy regimens from their homes.
“It’s been interesting to see people in their own environments,” Bloomer said. “We can’t do hands-on treatment, but we can treat people remotely and frequently.”
Telehealth services allow for a greater continuity of care for patients who are unable to come into the clinic, or are simply hesitant to do so while the pandemic is still going on.
“We are aware that there are times when patients have to come in,” Bloomer said. “This gives us another way to reach patients and get them the care they need.”
Use of telehealth services may have become popular in recent months, but it’s something Bloomer hopes will stick around beyond the pandemic.
“I would love to continue to offer telehealth as a service after the pandemic is over,” Bloomer said. “I am hopeful that insurance companies, including Medicare, will continue to cover this service long term.”
Coverage for telehealth services prior to the pandemic was limited but since March the increased requirements for social distancing have led Medicare and many insurance companies to cover telehealth for physical therapy.