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Researchers Get Creative With Physical Therapy Telehealth Program for Patients


We created a proven physical therapy telehealth program for patients to virtually meet with therapists – treating over 900 patients in one month

Daniel Mortimer standing next to his presentation on the physical therapy telehealth study | Spine & Sport Physical Therapy | San Diego and California locations
Daniel Mortimer at his ACSM study presentation.

San Diego (November 14, 2022) – As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the delivery of in-person healthcare services, Spine & Sport Physical Therapy and the US Spine & Sport Foundation worked together to create an effective telehealth process for patients who need physical therapy but are unable to visit a clinic. Researchers from the organizations conducted a study on telehealth delivery of therapeutic exercise for musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders, something that had not yet been widely implemented and well-studied, authoring a scientific article with an uplifting conclusion published November 14.

The research team of six physical therapy experts completed an in-depth review of the telehealth program at Spine & Sport Physical Therapy, an outpatient physical therapy organization with multiple locations across California. While the program itself is open to all eligible patients, the research group followed three patients, one male and two females, ranging from 50 to 65 with MSK disorders that had been present from 20 days post-op to 10 years. These patients received telehealth services outside of a clinic from licensed physical therapists from April 2020 through September 2020.

As the program took flight, the researchers realized they were going to have to overcome barriers inherent in at-home, physical therapy telehealth, including limited exercise equipment, technology difficulties and fall risk safety.

“I think the most enlightening realization was the creativity that is needed for telehealth. We only had access to household items and equipment to treat our patients, so we had to start thinking outside the box. For example, I had a back pain patient using two Costco-sized soap containers during squats to build up his back strength.”

– Daniel Mortimer, director at San Marcos Spine & Sport Physical Therapy and co-author of the study.

At the program’s peak in May of 2020, over 900 telehealth visits were completed at Spine & Sport Physical Therapy, with full-scale, teletherapy operations established across more than 20 of their locations. Patients completed exercises using body weight movements, home weights, exercise bands and more unconventional items such as soup cans.

The three patients the research team studied were very satisfied with the care and attention they received during their telehealth therapy sessions, one even noting she preferred them over in-office visits. The research team reported there were no safety incidents and the three patients all achieved their health goals at the end of the study.

Although telehealth in physical therapy does not replace the in-person patient experience, Spine & Sport Physical Therapy has been able to keep patients unable to receive in-person care safe, while not losing progress in their healing journey.

The full article about their study is published in the American Physical Therapy Association Physical Therapy Journal of Policy, Administration and Leadership’s November issue.

About Spine & Sport Physical Therapy

With 40+ outpatient clinics, Spine & Sport Physical Therapy (Spine & Sport) is a leading provider of physical therapy and rehabilitation services in Southern California. Our academic, research-based approach to physical therapy combines expert evaluation, exercises prescribed for the individual and manual therapy to set us apart from other providers. Spine & Sport is dedicated to personalized, measurable, patient-centered care for orthopaedic, sports and work-related injuries. Contact Spine & Sport at 800-976-7544 or