Study Finds Lower Satisfaction Among Virtual Physical Therapy Patients

Despite the advantages of using telehealth, a recent study reported in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine indicated that virtual physical therapy (PT) patients were less satisfied with their treatment than those who had it in person. 

Due to COVID-19 pandemic limits on in-person care, PT had a strong adoption in telehealth utilization among patients compared to most other disciplines. When in-person treatment was once again accessible, researchers wanted to understand how it compared to it in regards to patient accessibility and satisfaction. The return to in-person care following the reduction in COVID-19 patients after the first increase in 2020 was a key motivator for our study. According to researchers, physical therapists may be able to make more informed treatment decisions with the help of study data. 

The data for the study was collected using approximately 1,012 patient satisfaction surveys. After reviewing the data, researchers discovered that telehealth PT patients were typically older, White, female, and Medicare beneficiaries who spoke English as their first language. The researchers found that those who utilized telehealth were, on average, 5 years older than the average age of in-person clients. Females made up 60.6 percent of telehealth users and 54.8 percent of in-person users, respectively. Additionally, telehealth users were more likely to be White than in-person users were. English was the first language of 99.2 percent of telehealth users, compared to 98.1 percent of those who utilized in-person services. Researchers also found that 20.3 percent of telehealth clients had Medicare insurance, which was greater than the 16.1 percent of in-person service users who had the same insurance and discovered that patients who took part in telehealth physical therapy typically lived outside of counties and in small towns rather than in cities. 

In addition, the patient satisfaction survey’s results indicated that telehealth patients were less likely to recommend PT appointments than in-person patients. The survey reveals that telehealth patients gave their appointments a lower overall rating than the group who visited in person. Researchers came to the conclusion that telehealth may not be the best method for treating PT patients. They stressed the point that this does not inevitably negate the advantages of telehealth for patients with restricted access or time.