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Latest Trends in Physical Therapy

As is the case with most healthcare careers, Physical Therapy is experiencing rapid growth and an increasingly diverse range of career opportunities.  With the month of October being an annual month of recognition for those in the Physical Therapy field,
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As is the case with most healthcare careers, Physical Therapy is experiencing rapid growth and an increasingly diverse range of career opportunities.  With the month of October being an annual month of recognition for those in the Physical Therapy field, let’s take a look at a few of the trends that are driving the growth and opportunity.

Everyone into the Pool!  One of the main barriers to patient recovery is a reluctance to see their therapy program through to completion.  Often, PTs find that a patient will show up for their first appointment or first few appointments, then abandon the treatment plan.  One strategy for keeping reluctant patients engaged in the plan is through the utilization of Aquatic Therapy.  Utilizing water therapy is a great strategy for patients with a low pain tolerance, who suffer from obesity, or who have weight bearing issues.  Water-based therapy has proven to be less intimidating for patients who are uncomfortable with typical treatments and is more likely to keep them engaged in continuing their plan.

Home Health Care.  One trend that is emerging in every sector of the healthcare industry is home health care.  Americans are living longer and are striving to maintain their independence in their own homes as long as possible.  This has led to a burgeoning home healthcare industry with anticipated growth for physical therapy services being provided in the home of more than 47% over the next several years.  Home services require PTs and PTAs to visit the patient in their home to provide scheduled treatments.  These services add significant convenience for patients who have mobility issues or don’t have access to local clinics.  Another benefit of home-based services is that patients are more likely to stay committed to their therapy program if they don’t have to travel to and from a site-based office.

Hospital Readmission Reduction Efforts.  In the past, PTs were not always recognized as a contributing member of a hospital care team.  Therapy plans were developed and administered later in the cycle of care.  Today, developments in regulations, mainly driven by the Affordable Care Act, have given Physical Therapists their rightful role as an influential member of the care team.  Hospitals are being measured on patient readmission rates, and PTs are finally being recognized as key contributors to the care transition process from hospital to outpatient or home services.  PTs are involved in preparing patients for transition and are being relied upon to provide input and strategies for how physical therapy can help reduce avoidable 30-day readmission rates.

Everybody is a Gamer.  Physical Therapists are naturally a creative and resourceful group of care providers, so it is no surprise that many are now incorporating the use of video games into their treatment plans.  Utilizing gaming technology, such as the Nintendo Wii, allows therapists to take advantage of the motion-sensitive controllers to drive patients into performing targeted movements.  Cleverly called Wii-Hab, the approach is proving to be a way to engage patients in actively participating in their recovery and allow treatment to expand beyond the clinical setting.  Patients who enjoy the process of recovery are more likely to stick to it.

Super suits and Robotics.  It has finally happened; Hollywood has intersected with healthcare.  The Iron Man™ movies depict a brilliant scientist who straps on a high-tech exoskeleton and has super powers.  Today, the bionic exoskeleton exists in the form of an aluminum and titanium suit that is designed to help patients who are suffering from different levels of paralysis.  The suit, developed by a California-based company Ekso Bionics, facilitates patient movement in the form of walking.  The suit is capable of different gait patterns and body alignments and can be controlled by the patient.  Results show that patients can begin walking in the Ekso suit with very little practice or intervention from the therapist.

Technology will continue to be a driving force across all healthcare sectors.  PTs are finding new ways to utilize these advancements to the benefit of both their patients and their practice.  Please share your thoughts about trends that you see in the field of Physical Therapy in the comment section below.  Or, stop by our Facebook page and leave us a comment.