New Technology Trends in Physical Therapy
In 2022, PT practice owners are seeing technology trends that could change the standard of patient care for good. These new developments in physical therapy make patient care more accessible, easier to administer and yield better results than some of the “tried and true” industry standards.
So, what are the hottest PT trends emerging and how are they being implemented by PTs?
In this article, you’ll learn the 6 latest technology advancements in physical therapy and how they’ll impact your practice over the coming years.
1. Motion Capture Tech
In combination with other technology (and quality of life) improvements like telehealth therapy, wearable tech is gaining steam as the preferred way millennials improve movement and manage pain. Usually, in the form of sensors that attach to different body parts, this tech tracks and logs movement based on the optimal range of motion. Physical therapists can link these sensors to programmable apps to create personalized care plans for better results and ease of access. MIO Therapy is one of the leaders in the wearable tech space.
They offer an App that provides personalized care plans for specific injuries. These care plans involve interactive games (more on this below) that enhance recovery using points and rewards systems. Practice owners who can build sensor technology into their offering can differentiate themselves and appeal to a more targeted audience.
2. Virtual Reality
As Facebook becomes “Meta,” Apple works on new VR headsets, and Nvidia promises us artificial intelligence that will power a future in the “Metaverse” many PTs are left wondering, “What role will VR play in physical therapy?” Right now, there’s more than just buzz about the combination of VR and physical therapy. In a 2019 study, researchers measured the effects of virtual reality technology on a small group of patients experiencing problems with balance and gait due to Parkinson’s disease. The group of individuals using VR tech experienced “significantly better performance compared with the conventional physical therapy group.” It’s easy to see why, as patients who enjoy VR can often move past mental barriers to recover more efficiently.
Companies like XRHealth are already offering virtual care using augmented reality. Patients receive VR headsets in the mail and train with physical therapists to recover from specific injuries independently.
3. Video Games
Video games integrate with physical therapy more than some might realize, with some of the largest game-makers in the world creating specific games for enhanced mobility and exercise. These games are reaching across every medium discussed in this article, including consoles, VR machines, phone apps, and wearable tech. The power of video games and physical therapy is the fun factor involved. Nearly one in five physical therapy appointments is missed in the United States every year. These missed appointments lead to poor patient recovery, loss of revenue and wasted time. Video games make physical therapy palatable for those who struggle with recovery. And as technology is improving, so are the graphics and performance of these video games.
For instance, in the past five years, mobile gaming has taken off, seeing exponential growth in every country with powerful chips that boast beautiful graphics and high-speed performance. These advancements in technology ensure every patient has the hardware needed for PTs to prescribe highly-engaging treatment plans.
4. Rehabilitation Robotics
Assistive and rehabilitation robotics are an emerging PT trend using robotics to assist with cognitive, motor-skill therapy and post-surgery rehabilitation. Specific applications include gait training and neural rehab. These robots, often in the form of exoskeletons, empower patients by assisting them with functionality. This assistance can be tweaked to support, but challenge patients and scale in difficulty as their recovery progresses.
Another form of robotics deployed in the PT field is intelligent prosthetics robotics that helps patients regain functionality they otherwise would never get back.
5. PT Practice Management Software
While PT software is fairly common, new features automate trivial tasks with pinpoint accuracy—tasks that used to consume hours of labor. Recent updates in billing, communications, web, EMR, and telehealth make practice owners’ and PTs’ lives easier by automating and optimizing daily work. The latest PT practice management software keeps patient security and accuracy at the forefront of operations, making running a PT practice more profitable and less time-consuming.
Telehealth in physical therapy is on the mind of every practice owner whether they have an established system or they’re looking to implement a new telehealth platform. Telehealth was already on the rise, but the Coronavirus pandemic accelerated patient adoption and the technology involved. PTs had to adopt non-contact methods of treatment to provide better care in 2020, and those trends are still gaining steam. Shockingly, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saw a 63x increase in Medicare telehealth visits—which is now becoming essential for the rapidly-aging population. And while the results are scattered across different mediums of healthcare, physical therapy will benefit from the adoption and regulatory tailwinds. There’s already been considerable improvement in recovery due to closer adherence to home exercise programs that give patients unparalleled flexibility and ease of access. Patients also seem to love virtual care, with no overall difference in patient satisfaction between in-person and virtual care models. And from a PT’s perspective, the time savings from virtual care can boost productivity. Overall, telehealth technology is taking off because the product is better, faster and more time efficient than in-person treatment in specific use cases.
The Bottom Line
Technology is moving faster than ever before, and PT practice owners will need to adapt to the latest and greatest to maintain their appeal to patients. Many advancements like virtual care, robotics and the gamification of treatment are already giving patients better care and more flexibility. If you’re considering upgrading the tech your practice offers to bring in more patients; many practice owners start slow with an upgrade of their existing PT software.
A robust physical therapy software system is essential for every PT practice to operate at its full potential. MwTherapy puts practice management on autopilot with an all-in-one solution that creates better patient outcomes and profitability. Try a free trial today and see how we can help your practice achieve its full potential!