Tele-rehabilitation brings physical therapy, technology together to help patients heal faster

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
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Clients schedule a time to do home exercises while therapists monitor their workouts via a computer as part of a tele-rehabilitation program.

CULVER CITY, Calif. (KABC) -- It's 6 a.m. and physical therapist Darwin Fogt is already seeing patients - six at a time, actually.

"It's tele-rehabilitation and what it allows us to do is monitor multiple patients at once while performing a prescribed exercise program for them," said Fogt, CEO of E-Wellness Healthcare, the makers of Phzio.

The program known as Phzio was developed four years ago and has been tested on thousands of patients.

"Now a physical therapist can monitor multiple patients at once while doing their exercises," Fogt said.

While the patient is working on a pre-recorded video, the doctor is watching them in real time, noticing any need for corrections.

The therapist can chat directly or type text across the screen. The patient starts the session by weighing in on their current aches and pains.

"At this point we know that in the state of California, Blue Cross and Blue Shield is reimbursing for this type of intervention," Fogt said.

Medicare isn't on board yet, but Fogt said it looks promising sometime in 2017 as clients are more compliant and getting better faster.

Therapist Karen Joubert sees both pros and cons in the program.

"Tele-medicine is now. I've seen it in all aspects of health care. It is where we're going, whether you like it or not. It's the parking, it's the driving. They're not going to feel like 'I can't get to therapy.' It's going to give them a lot more comfort knowing that they have somebody watching them," she said.

Dr. Andy Pritikin said the program isn't for a beginner, but feels it might keep him from seeing re-occurring clients who have failed to do their homework and return re-injured.

"What I mostly hear is, 'No I forgot. I forgot which ones. I only remember this one.' So there's a direct parallel between the two of doing the exercise. As long as they're checking in, we're keeping them out of the medical circle," Pritikin said.