By Samantha Schmidt, PT
COVID-19 hit hard and fast. The daily news feed tells the stories of the pandemic’s detrimental impacts to our communities, country, and world. Yet, during some of our country’s toughest times we have been gifted with innovation and opportunities. COVID-19 has proven to be a pivotal springboard for our health care system in providing greater access to Physical Therapy services especially for rural Montanans.
During the lockdown, Telehealth Physical Therapy gained support from third party payers, the government, and the tech sector to provide online care so patients could continue their rehabilitation safely. Initially, both physical therapists and patients were apprehensive about this type of access; however, very quickly the results of online physical therapy sessions demonstrated powerful positive impacts in overcoming pain and limitations.
As reopening and a return to a new norm occurs, Physical Therapists will continue to provide Telehealth options for those who need it whether related to a public health crisis, out of town travel for work, or a lack of local services. It is a new norm in which the Physical Therapy profession is excited to not only embrace but to grow.
Just this week, Sam Schmidt, PT, with Alpine Physical Therapy, evaluated a USFS trail crew member who had an acute Achilles tendonitis episode while shed hunting. The trail crew member is stationed in a remote Montana town, and after a week of acute management was advised by her doctor to seek PT. As a PT, Sam took a detailed history of the injury and current symptoms then observed and evaluated the trail crew member’s foot and ankle function all via online. From there, specific guidelines of returning to activities, modifications for work, and appropriate prescribed exercises were given . . . all from the trail crew member’s bunk house. This saved time away from work while allowing the trail crew member to be proactive in taking care of the most important tool for work – the body!
“It was really convenient and super beneficial to get good professional advice and diagnosis during my work week. I think folks like me who are living away from their normal places can really benefit from this type of access to PT.” M. K. USFS Trail Crew Member
Last week, a patient in Lewistown, MT, was able to seek the expertise of Lymphadema PT Specialist, Antara Quiniones, DPT, of Alpine PT in Missoula, MT. This patient is facing ongoing oncology treatments that resulted in lymphedema issues that required a specialist like Antara to help. “It is great that patients can access this type of specialty care without travel or really leaving the comfort of their home,” reports Antara.
“We are seeing more and more patients from outlying smaller communities starting to seek the specialties of our team of PTs at Alpine PT through this new type of access – online physical therapy,” states Alpine PT co-owner and staff PT, Sam Schmidt. In addition, Sam describes several of the other specialists in her company. “We have pelvic health specialists, a vestibular specialist, persistent pain specialists, and many of our PTs focus on high level athletes from youth sports to those aggressive Pickle Ball players out there! It has been great to see how many more people we can help through these online sessions thanks in part to COVID-19 pushing this innovation.”
Physical therapists are specialists in evaluating painful movement dysfunction to address limitations people might experience in everyday activities, work related tasks, or recreational pursuits. PTs use their keen sense of observation in combination with specific questions and testing to understand how to best help patients get back to an active pain free life. Online physical therapy is a natural and easy way for technology to help rural Montanans live a better life through better movement.
Call to book an online visit and experience this new option for accessing PT from the safety and comfort of your home. (406) 251-2323 or schedule an appointment online at alpineptmissoula.com.