5 Inspiring Physical Therapy Innovations

In the physical therapy space, innovative advancements have continuously evolved to help enhance recovery and accelerate mobility after an injury, accident, or serious health event.

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The Importance of Physical Therapy Innovations

Throughout the years, innovations across the medical field have enabled patients to attain a better quality of life with fewer, less catastrophic injuries or illnesses. In the physical therapy space, innovative advancements have continuously evolved to help enhance recovery and accelerate mobility after an injury, accident, or serious health event.

With new physical therapy technology and methodology debuting each year, innovation in physical therapy shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Here's a more in-depth analysis of present and future physical therapy innovations on the rise across the physical therapy space.

Early Innovative Advancements in Physical Therapy

Previous decades have seen various physical therapy innovations make waves across the industry. These PT innovations have helped professionals improve the quality and effectiveness of their practice, which in turn, has helped patients reach treatment goals quickly and more comfortably.

Some of the earlier innovative advancements in physical therapy include:

  • Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES). First appearing in medical treatment literature as early as 1964, Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation helps patients regain range of motion and strength following injury or surgery by using electrical impulses to target a specific muscle group.
  • Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). Dating back to 1967, Lower-Level Laser Therapy has helped patients with numerous musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis, TMD, and disc herniation find pain relief through its ability to accelerate tissue regeneration and reduce inflammation.
  • Telemedicine/Tele-Rehab. Since 1998, telerehabilitation has offered a way for patients to receive individualized physical therapy services through an internet-enabled device and webcam support.

While all three early PT innovations are still seen in physical therapy practices today, the usage of telemedicine, in particular, has skyrocketed in recent years due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

What Kind of Technology Is Used in Physical Therapy?

A wide variety of technology is used in physical therapy to account for patient treatment services and administrative purposes. This technology includes but is not limited to electronic medical records (EMR), mobility testing equipment, ultrasound, and muscle testing equipment.

A robust EMR solution is critical for any physical therapy practice looking to streamline and simplify its operations. This all-in-one solution allows physical therapy practices to leverage fast electronic patient documentation and management to remain in compliance and go paperless with efax capabilities and on-the-go administrative abilities.

Outside of administrative technologies, a wide array of technology is used in physical therapy to aid in monitoring patient functional improvement and the patient episode of care. Depending on the physical therapy specialties offered at a practice, the technology used includes but is not limited to:

  • Muscle testing equipment such as electronic manual muscle testers
  • Inclinometer range of motion measurement devices
  • Ultrasound and electrotherapy equipment
  • Traction and mobilization of patient tables
  • Pivotal traction and balance supplies

5 Exciting Present-Day Innovations in Physical Therapy

Throughout 2022 and onwards into 2023, physical therapy professionals will want to keep up with the latest industry trends to empower and advance their services. These present-day innovations can include physical therapy apps, rehabilitation robotics, and gamified physical therapy.

1. Physical Therapy Apps

In today's era of mobile technology, the use of physical therapy apps has exploded for both patient and provider purposes. For patients, physical therapy apps such as Pocket Anatomy and the Orca Health App offer a way for those undergoing treatment to better understand the anatomy of their injury or condition and the accompanying treatment steps. These apps also provide an excellent way for PT professionals to engage patients with their care plans.

2. Virtual Reality Technology

Innovations in physical therapy have enabled consumer-based virtual reality (VR) technology to become involved with patient treatment services. By simulating moving environments, such as walking and playing various sports, PT professionals can assess a patient's current mobility to monitor the evolving state of their condition. Likewise, VR offers a safe, controlled setting that patients can use to practice and regain their mobility skills and strength.

3. Wearable Technology

On a small scale, wearable technology like FitBits or Apple smartwatches encourages patients to remain physical. But on a larger scale, wearable physical therapy technology like instrumented shoe insoles and full-body exoskeletons have helped PTs reach their patient treatment goals with comprehensive data and high-tech support.

Physical therapy innovation examples, such as Cipher Skin, measure a patient's range of motion, muscle expansion, and force production. This technology provides professionals with robust data to craft personalized care episodes that can progress with the patient.

4. Gamified Rehabilitation

From adolescents to senior patients, PT innovations have allowed gaming technology to enter the rehabilitative process, providing a fun and exciting (yet practical) way to reach patient treatment goals. Popular PT gaming approaches, like Wii-Hab, incorporate a controller and balance board to offer various games such as Wii Sports and Zumba Fitness. These games help motivate patients to get moving, work on their range of movement, and track overall progress while having fu

5. EMR and Practice Management Software

Physical therapy innovations and patient treatment technology have also created significant advancements within EMR and Practice Management Software. Modern software allows physical therapists to better manage their practice population alongside ongoing referral efforts to help secure new patients. Likewise, EMR and practice management software enables PTs to identify and track key performance indicators (KPIs) for better financial analysis and management.

How is Technology Changing Physical Therapy?

Advancements in technology now allow physical therapists to treat patients with more accuracy, thus improving functional outcomes and enhancing the patient experience. Technology supports physical therapists in their efforts both clinically and administratively. 

The technology used in physical therapy has continued to change the industry for the better, whether it's enhancing the quality of patient treatment or helping professionals streamline administrative processes to more effectively meet compliance needs. With considerable advancements in physical therapy occurring annually, PT professionals can more precisely diagnose and treat patients, helping reduce individual downtime.

One of the newest areas of treatment and innovation is Remote Therapeutic Monitoring, also called RTM for short. This will definitely continue to expedite the usage of technology both for patients and for providers.

The Future of Innovation in Physical Therapy & PT Trends

While it may already seem that innovation in physical therapy is at its peak, it's important to note that further advancements show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. With many emerging techniques and tools on the verge of becoming a go-to staple for physical therapists, it's essential to stay on top of current PT trends.

Some of the leading future physical therapy innovations professionals should be keeping an eye on include:

  • Further advancements in telemedicine provide each patient with pre-recorded, customized treatment videos rather than one-to-one intervention.
  • Recent incoming data from the sports medicine and physical therapy space support enhanced concussion treatment and prevention techniques.
  • Ongoing advancements in wearable robotics aid in patients' range of motion and muscle support and focus on fall prevention and immediate detection.

Keeping up with physical therapy innovations and implementing them into your PT clinic can generally help improve patent treatment outcomes and upgrade your physical therapy practice.

The Bottom Line

From the patient to the provider, no one wants to encounter difficulties when seeking reimbursement. To avoid frustrations during the claims process, physical therapists require a physical therapy billing software to help get the job done. MWTherapy is here to help.

With MWTherapy's robust billing software, PT professionals can optimize their cash-paying patient receipts to aid in creating a comprehensive physical therapy superbill. Rather than pouring over charge sheets, integration with EMR and scheduling modules helps to ensure all visits are automatically documented, supporting accurate superbills every time.

To see what MWTherapy can do for your cash-based or insurance-based physical therapy super billing processes, schedule a demo today.

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