Physical therapy is a service provided by trained and licensed professionals to develop, maintain, and restore movement and functional ability. In most cases, physical therapy is provided post-injury to restore function and prevent future injury, but it can also provide benefits for chronic conditions by increasing mobility and quality of life.
A physical therapist has the ability to examine and assess the 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, in certain situations, patients can benefit from at-home physical therapy.
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.
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:
- Restored mobility, functional ability, and improved quality of life
- 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?
There is some concern that physical therapy provided in the patient's 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.