How telemedicine and digital therapeutics can improve orthopedic care and PT

How telemedicine and digital therapeutics can improve orthopedic care and PT

A physical therapist and telehealth expert shows how the technologies can help patients, especially in disadvantaged populations, access the care they need and stick to a care plan. Lower-income and minority populations face multiple barriers to accessing the right healthcare and are typically less likely to utilize orthopedic care, which can result in significant functional impairment. Patients with state-funded Medicaid and federally funded Medicare plans also encounter logistical barriers to securing musculoskeletal care, including lower referral rates to orthopedic surgeons. All remote education content must be tailored to the patient and their condition, and ideally should reflect their co-morbidities, medication and social determinants of health, as these factors influence how a patient is likely to respond to treatment. Digital therapeutics can help orthopedic teams build stronger relationships with their patients, especially those who are members of disadvantaged populations and who are likely to need additional support. Standardizing patient access to preoperative and postoperative education through remote technology can help practices correct against implicit bias and ensure consistent communication with all patient populations, including the 13% of Americans who speak Spanish at home. Ideally, telehealth technology can serve as a digital bridge to connect vulnerable patients to their care teams. However, the infrastructure of any such tool must support all patient populations, including the 43% of lower-income adults without broadband services at home. Patients should be able to access their care plans via mobile device with a secure login. Digital care management systems allow orthopedic practices to scale valuable in-person time by automating low-touch interactions, while identifying the patients who need targeted one-to-one intervention. The addition of patient messaging and remote monitoring tools enables the delivery of patient-reported outcomes data and care plan progression feedback to be returned in real time to the care team, who then can intervene as necessary. When digital therapeutics are designed to be inclusive of all patient populations, they can transform the way we practice orthopedics to improve health equity.

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