Physical therapy (PT) is an integral service that provides care and recovery treatment for a wide variety of injuries, surgeries, or diseases. It is conducted by trained and licensed professionals to develop, maintain, or restore movement and functional ability. Through the use of exercise, education, and movement activities, physical therapy can improve the health of patients as a key part of a comprehensive care plan.
A physical therapist has the ability to examine and assess a patient's needs and to evaluate those findings in the interest of creating a customized treatment plan. Physical therapists are also responsible for implementing the program, assessing its efficacy, and making adjustments and recommendations for self-management.
Physical therapy is typically provided in a hospital or outpatient clinic; however some patients have situations or conditions that restrict their ability to travel outside of the home — including to and from appointments. This is where in-home physical therapy serves as an important service for the care and treatment of these patients.
What Are the Benefits of Physical Therapy?
Whether recovering from an injury or seeking treatment for a chronic condition, physical therapy provides a number of benefits. Physical therapy can be customized to your individual needs to help reduce or eliminate pain, improve mobility, speed recovery, and prevent future injury. It is beneficial in cases of acute injury or trauma, as well as chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and vascular conditions.
Undergoing physical therapy could also reduce your treatment costs. According to one study, initial treatment costs may be reduced by up to 50% when the original primary care consultation is followed by referral to a physical therapist prior to advanced imaging. Furthermore, using physical therapy as a primary treatment strategy results in 72% fewer costs during the patient's first year of treatment.
What Is In-Home Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy can be provided in a variety of settings. For patients who are hospitalized, therapy can be provided in the hospital – sometimes even in the patient's room. For outpatient physical therapy, many patients travel to an outpatient physical therapy clinic. Other options include nursing-home physical therapy and in-home rehabilitation services.
In-home physical therapy is simply physical therapy provided in the patient's home. In-home rehab services are typically reserved for patients who are unable to leave their house to attend physical therapy sessions. This can happen for a wide variety of reasons including the following:
- The patient has an acute or severe condition in which leaving the home presents a significant health risk
- The patient's functional mobility is limited to the point they cannot travel safely
- The patient has no access to adequate transportation to attend outpatient physical therapy
- The patient desires the privacy or convenience of in-home rehabilitation services
Physical therapy home visits may or may not be covered by insurance – it depends on the individual plan and carrier. In most cases, the service will be covered if the patient can demonstrate significant barriers preventing them from accessing outpatient physical therapy services.
How Often Should You Do Physical Therapy at Home?
Every injury, situation, and rate of healing differs from patient to patient, so there is no set frequency of how much physical therapy one should undergo at home. Instead, a physical therapist should work with a patient until their physical therapy goals have been met or until it is determined that the goals (and potentially the methods of treatment) need to be re-evaluated. Goals may be set on a combination of different benchmarks, including:
- Restoring movement abilities to meet lifestyle needs
- Independence and further prevention of injury
- Pain management
- Range of motion
- Strength and stability
- Injury or surgery recovery
While soft tissue typically takes between six and eight weeks to heal, other patients may be managing more serious, ongoing, or worsening conditions that may require physical therapy at home for longer or open-ended durations. For conditions that are not chronic, six to twelve sessions is fairly standard for treating most diagnoses. In the best-case scenario, a patient would receive physical therapy services two or three times before gaining the knowledge they need to maintain a home exercise program on their own to help manage their condition moving forward.
What Are the Benefits of Physical Therapy at Home?
The primary benefit of at-home physical therapy is, of course, the fact that it is provided in the patient's home. In-home physical therapy services are particularly beneficial for elderly patients and patients whose condition limits their mobility to the point that leaving the home could be difficult or even dangerous. This is true for patients who have experienced surgery, a stroke, a heart attack, or physical trauma, and for patients with mobility-limiting conditions like Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.
The benefits of home health physical therapy include the following:
- Reduced risk of injury for patients whose condition limits their mobility
- Improved comfort and convenience for homebound patients
- Therapy catered to the patient's individual needs and home environment
- More personalized care and one-on-one attention compared to a busy clinic
- Faster progress due to limited distractions and more intensive therapy
Physical therapy for elderly patients is often focused on improving functional mobility and quality of life; thus, providing services in the patient's home enables the therapist to cater the therapy to the patient's specific needs.
Is At-Home Physical Therapy Effective?
It is common for potential patients to wonder if physical therapy provided in their home may be less effective than therapy received at an outpatient clinic. It is true that in-home rehab may be somewhat limited in terms of equipment and exercise tools, but there are ways to work around these limitations. A licensed physical therapist is trained to utilize the resources available to maximize the patient's benefit. Physical therapists can also bring light equipment and accessories to use in the patient's home.
Though there is limited scientific data regarding in-home rehabilitation services, some studies show that at-home physical therapy is at least equal in efficacy to outpatient services. One 2016 study published in the journal Orthopedic Nursing compared the functional outcomes of patients receiving only outpatient physical therapy with patients who received in-home physical therapy followed by outpatient physical therapy. The results of the study showed no significant difference between the two.
How Long Is a Home Health Physical Therapy Visit?
As is the case with traditional physical therapy, home health physical therapy visits will vary in duration depending on a variety of factors for the patient’s specific situation. That being said, patients can expect their home health physical therapy sessions to take about one hour.
The early sessions for a patient may take a bit longer because of the time needed for the physical therapists to gather information and to teach the patient how to conduct each exercise or movement effectively. An initial assessment of the patient’s muscles, joints, nerves, tendons, and ligaments may be conducted to establish a baseline of structural health. The therapist will also carefully evaluate how the patient is feeling throughout the process and get a gauge of pain levels so they can adjust the at-home care approach as needed. By comparing and combining this patient examination with recommendations from a doctor, a therapist should be able to design a care plan for rehabilitation that will determine how the following sessions will be carried out.
How Much Does Home Health Physical Therapy Cost?
Home health physical therapy is a generally cost-effective approach for providing treatment to homebound patients. The cost of home health physical therapy is largely dependent on what type of insurance a patient has. In many cases, there will be out-of-pocket costs in the form of a copay (generally $10-$75 a session) or coinsurance (10-50%+ of the session’s total costs). If it is possible to demonstrate a significant impediment to leaving the house, it is likely that in-home physical therapy will be covered by insurance.
For patients without a condition restricting them to the home or who are not covered by health insurance, there are more costs associated with the physical therapy services at home. Depending on the length of the physical therapy session and the services being provided, typical costs for a session can range between $50 and $350. Total costs will depend on how many sessions are required for the patient to improve their health and meet their goals. So, while a common injury may only require a few sessions, a serious injury, chronic condition, or major-surgery recovery could require many sessions. The difference between these two scenarios can be significant for the overall expense required for the care of at-home therapists.
The good news is PT at home is typically more affordable than physical therapy at a hospital or traditional outpatient clinic.
Home health physical therapy services are here to provide necessary care and rehabilitation for patients in the comfort and safety of their own homes. It is effective, convenient, and necessary for the physical improvement of those with conditions that make it difficult to travel to receive the treatment they need. If you are or someone you know is in need of in-home PT (or are expecting to need it after a planned surgery) please reach out to us at Keystone for a free consultation.