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Improving patient health outcomes with telerehab

Orthopedic surgeon Michael Oberlander, MD, believes that telerehab can help alleviate the challenges that patients face with pain and their adherence to physical therapy (PT). Oberlander, president and chief medical officer of Trainer Rx, presented his insights at HIMSS 2018 as one of the speakers at the Intelligent Health Pavilion in Las Vegas, NV. (HIMSS stands for Healthcare Information Management Systems Society.)

During his presentation, Oberlander, emphasized the cost of orthopedic injuries to society:

  • $213 billion: Cost of treating orthopedic injuries annually, including care and lost wages
  • 77% (65.8 million): Healthcare visits that are specific to orthopedic injuries
  • 48% or $12.7 billion: Percentage/amount US spends on PT

“While the majority of patients may benefit from physical therapy, less than 15% on average are given prescriptions for PT,” noted Oberlander. “Many ignore their injury until it becomes debilitating or rely on medications to alleviate pain. In some cases, patients would actually prefer to undergo surgery to relieve their suffering.”

Oberlander explained that two primary reasons people don’t seek physical therapy are cost and convenience.  

“In my sports medicine practice I saw a significant gap with conventional rehabilitation,” he noted. “Patients were paying more, not completing their PT treatment plans, and were relying more on pain medicines.”

Oberlander said that reduction in reimbursements have pushed the burden of paying for physical therapy to the patient. Out-of-pocket costs today can range from $60 to $175 per session. Additionally, work, family life, and other life pressures have also infringed on patients’ therapeutic sessions. On average, patients complete only 70-80% of their treatment plan. Not completing their therapy significantly increases their risk for re-injury and for substance abuse. According to Altarum, the US cost of pain medicines, such as opioids, has reached $1T since 2001.

According to Oberlander, the Trainer Rx platform solves the cost and convenience challenge by offering patients an annual fee that is usually lower than insurance co-pays and by giving them 24/7 access to the PT platform after a physician has prescribed it.

Since the platform was launched in 2014, more than 600,000 telerehab sessions have been completed, and many accessed their sessions at any time of day or night. Those who used the platform also reported statistically significant pain reduction. For example, patients who received hip arthroplasty and used the platform for PT reported a 45.9% reduction in pain scores using the visual analog scale (VAS Pain).

“Physical therapy can be an effective pain management solution, while addressing the underlying pathology,” noted Oberlander. “Telerehab holds the promise of improving patient health outcomes while reducing reliance and potential abuse of pain medicines.”

The company is launching new products in April to enhance patient access.

To learn more about how telerehab works, view this short video.

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