Telehealth and digital health are terms that have seeped into our daily lexicon but what is it and how can it help me?
First, let’s define these terms that are used interchangeably. Wikipedia defines digital health as “a discipline that includes digital care programs, technologies with health, healthcare, living and society to enhance the efficacy of healthcare delivery and to make medicine more personalized and more precise.” Whereas telehealth is “the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication.”
Telehealth refers more to how the service is distributed while digital health is described as a disciple of medicine that uses technology to make treatment more precise and personalized.
Theoretically, any medical discipline can offer digital health services or telehealth because they are using technology to improve upon and distribute their services. Does this mean that every aspect of medicine should be ‘digitized’? Certainly not. Digital health and telehealth are not meant for every person or every problem in any one person, but it can augment services and offer a convenient and efficient way to deal with specific issues that respond best to specific interventions in certain people.
What about ‘high touch’ services, like physical therapy? How can digital health be used in PT? Well, there is a wealth of research that indicates education and exercise are the most effective treatment for typical musculoskeletal issues like repetitive stress injuries, hip, knee, back, and neck pain to name a few. Digital PT offers an opportunity to have one on one conversations with a clinician who is focused entirely on you for the whole session. Exercises are prescribed in video format with audio instructions and options to pause, record, and fast forward if you wish! They can be completed in your home or your gym at times that work with your schedule. Many digital programs also offer direct chats with clinicians so there is no need to waste time trying to call, leave a message and wait a couple of business days for a response. Digital services can be used as a ‘stand alone’ treatment or to augment in-person treatment. Oftentimes, all you need is a couple of short manual therapy sessions and then you can be on your way to self-management with a digital service for advice, encouragement, and progression of exercise.
You don’t have to be tech-savvy or need any special equipment for telehealth or digital health to work for you. All you need is an open mind to try something new and the rest will fall into place. If you have further questions about digital health in physical therapy, contact OneStep and talk to a OneStep specialist to learn how we can help.
1: Akca, N.K., Aydin, G. and Gumus, K., 2017. Effect of Body Mechanics Brief Education in the Clinical Setting on Pain Patients with Lumbar Disc Hernia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 10(3), p.1498.
2: George S.C, Fritz,J. M et al. Interventions for the management of acute and chronic low back pain, Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy October 31 2021 Volume51Issue11PagesCPG1-CPG60 https://www.jospt.org/doi/10.2519/jospt.2021.0304
3: Shirado, Osamu MD*; et. al. Japan Low back-pain Exercise Therapy Study (JALETS) Investigators from the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) the Japanese Society for Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation (JSMR) the Japanese Clinical Orthopaedic Association (JCOA) Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial to Evaluate the Effect of Home-Based Exercise on Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain, Spine: August 1, 2010 - Volume 35 - Issue 17 - p E811-E819
4: Krauß, I., Steinhilber, B., Haupt, G., Miller, R., Martus, P. and Janßen, P., 2014. Exercise therapy in hip osteoarthritis—a randomized controlled trial. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 111(35-36), p.592.
5: Abbott JH, , Chapple CM, , Fitzgerald GK, , et al.. The incremental effects of manual therapy or booster sessions in addition to exercise therapy for knee osteoarthritis: a randomized clinical trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2015; 45: 975– 983. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2015.6015