Health & Wellness

Physical therapy being offered via telehealth by Northwestern Medicine

“The underpinning of a lot of treatments is exercise -- exercise, education, advocacy, so we can provide all those things virtually”

A new report out this month found virtual physical therapy to be as effective as in-person PT and Northwestern Medicine is one of the Chicago area providers offering the telehealth option.

“The common question is, ‘How do you know anything without putting your hands on someone?” said Matthew Hatzl, a Lead Physical Therapist with Northwestern Medicine.

“We follow a certain sort of algorithms or methods to try to reach the desired outcome, which is reduce pain or resolve to pain, improved function, improve quality of life, and so we can still capture that very much in a virtual environment,” said Hatzl.

When Jana Roe from Sycamore, Illinois sought relief for a painful bulging disc in her back, she was offered a virtual physical therapy session with Northwestern Medicine.

“I was skeptical at first, because I've only done it in person. But it ended up to be the best experience,” Roe said. “I gained so much insight and he helped me through the exercises and he was watching me the whole entire time. You know, I moved my computer to the floor so he could see what I was doing.”

Hatzl said many patients have had a similar experience to Roe’s.

“The underpinning of a lot of treatments is exercise -- exercise, education, advocacy, so we can provide all those things virtually,” Hatzl said.

In addition to strengthening weak muscles and treating a variety of aches and pains, offering virtual physical therapy sessions can also mean improved access to care for some patients.

“We serve a very broad geography and not everybody has transportation, first of all, so yes, access is definitely enhanced by this,” Hatzl said.

A new report out this month from the Peterson Health Technology Institute found, “physical therapist-guided solutions can be an effective alternative to in-person PT and have the potential to reduce healthcare spending.”

Roe said she liked the convenience of the virtual format.

“I didn't have to wait. Like you said, I didn't have to drive anywhere. He was there. I liked that one-on-one. There were no distractions,” said Roe.

Pain-free after her sessions, Roe is glad she didn’t give in to her doubts about trying virtual physical therapy.

“Well, unless you try it, you're never going to know. I was skeptical too. But this is the only route I would ever do it again,” Roe said. “I liked, you know, the relationship that I had with my physical therapist. And yeah, like I said, it's changed my life for the better.”

Evaluations are available for patients of all ages. No prescription is needed, although Northwestern Medicine says they must be present in the state of Illinois for a physical therapy telehealth visit. Patients can be referred for an in-person appointment if needed. You can find more information by reaching out to Northwestern Medicine online or by calling 630-933-1500.

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