With 2020 (finally) behind us, we can take a deep breath and focus on the year ahead. 2020 changed everything: schooling, shopping, politics, and, of course, healthcare.

Here are seven trends in physical therapy that will continue to shape 2021.

Telerehabilitation still in high demand

SARS-CoV-2019, the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic, isn’t going away anytime soon. In 2021, many people will still be reluctant to attend “offline” physiotherapy sessions to avoid getting infected with the virus, so telerehab will continue to be in high demand. Even when the pandemic is over, remote physical therapy will be popular because, after all, it’s incredibly convenient.

Thanks to new technologies, patients in rural areas can easily connect with speciality healthcare providers, parents can enjoy the benefits of physiotherapy without having to arrange childcare, and individuals with limited mobility can be treated in the comfort of their homes.

Today, telerehab is more than just videoconferencing with patients. Modern telerehabilitation platforms are comprehensive solutions that offer everything from creating exercise plans to staying in touch with your patients and remote patient monitoring.

Telerehab is already reimbursed in several countries, including Poland and Germany. This includes both state-owned medical insurance providers (such as Poland’s NFZ) and private insurance companies who are open to innovations.

A patient is playing rehabilitation game with Raccoon.Recovery devices

Gamified rehabilitation apps for patient engagement

In physiotherapy, patient engagement plays a key role in determining the success of treatment. Even the best exercise plan will fail if the patient doesn’t actually perform the prescribed movements.

However, most physiotherapy exercises are not exactly fun to do. And since most people are already struggling with anxiety, boredom and sadness due to the countless lockdowns, there’s a need for “fun”, engaging healthcare. This is why gamified rehab, a trend that started a few years ago, is not going away anytime soon. 

Gamified rehabilitation apps provide an engaging, rewarding patient experience. Playing games triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for motivation, mood, and learning. And since dopamine levels drop quickly, patients feel an urge to play again so that they can enjoy another dopamine boost.

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What does gamified rehabilitation look like? For example, Raccoon.Recovery lets patients do their home exercise program while playing fun video games. The game is controlled by movements that were prescribed by the therapist. Raccoon.Recovery wearable sensors act as game controllers. While they’re playing, our rehab software tracks the exercises being performed, counts repetitions, and records the amount of time it took to complete the HEP. It also tracks incorrectly performed exercises and thus prevents building faulty movement patterns.

AI and ML as assistance for physiotherapists

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are more than just trendy buzzwords. They have the potential to transform every industry, including healthcare.

Imagine spending less time writing clinical notes and trying to google the latest treatment guidelines. Imagine having an assistant by your side who uses their vast knowledge to help you differentiate between similar diagnoses and evaluate patient data. Yes, this is what AI and ML can do for you.

No computer can replace your intuition and your experience. However, AI-powered healthcare solutions can help you with data analysis and automating routine tasks.

Changes in physical therapy reimbursement

Everyone is cutting costs now – including health insurance companies. This is why so it’s time to expand your business and offer extra services to diversify your revenue. One such service can be remote rehab – an excellent way to treat more patients in less time. And, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s already being recognized and reimbursed in several countries, including Germany and Poland.

A senior patient is performing recovery exercises with support of wearable technologies

Wearable technologies for better results

Today, wearable devices are no longer the stuff of sci-fi movies. Smart watches and fitness trackers can provide users with valuable information about their health and feedback on their exercise habits. Specialized physiotherapy devices can even track and analyze specific movements, providing the therapist with a wealth of valuable data.

For example, our wearable devices double as game controllers and movement trackers so patients can do hand rehab exercises while playing games. Anna Bezrodna, our CBDO, explains: 

“Before we became a healthtech company, we used to develop game controllers – and then we noticed that many of our customers were recovering from hand injuries. So we’ve decided to cater to this specific target group and develop a solution that combines gaming, rehabilitation, and remote patient monitoring.”

With the use of wearables, remote physical therapy becomes a viable alternative to in-person treatments.

Data-driven decisions by PTs

The ongoing economic crisis forces all businesses to adjust their strategies and processes while cutting costs and maintaining customer loyalty. Healthcare is no exception.

There’s little doubt that the best way to optimize your business is to rely on data. So in 2021, big data is going to play an even bigger role in all aspects of the healthcare industry. 

Rehabilitation software can provide you with a wealth of valuable insights into your patients’ experience. You can see if they’re struggling with their home exercise program, how much progress they’re making, and if they actually do their HEP according to your instructions.

Equipped with this data, you can modify the HEP, provide feedback, and address potential problems as soon as they arise.

patient safety

Focus on patient safety

Of course, patient safety has always been important – after all, no physiotherapist would want patients to hurt themselves. But recently, patient safety has acquired new dimensions.

In 2020, physical therapists began wearing personal protective equipment,  disinfecting every surface, and switching to remote treatments to curb the spread of COVID-19.

And with remote treatments comes the problem of data security. Healthcare institutions are interesting targets for cybercriminals because they usually store a lot of personal data. If your facility still hasn’t switched to secure, fully GDPR compliant software, it’s time to do it. This will keep your patients’ data safe.

How can you prepare for 2021?

After 2020, physiotherapy will never be the same again. Remote rehab is more than a temporary solution, and technological innovations such as AI and wearables continue to transform the entire field of healthcare. By following these new trends in physical therapy, you’re setting your physiotherapy business up for success.

We at Raccoon.World work closely with physiotherapists and insurance companies alike. We aim to create an all-in-one solution that takes care of everything from securely managing patient data to monitoring patients’ progress. Also, we are currently working on advanced features that help insurance companies predict and optimize treatment costs.