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When you are looking to provide a home exercise program to patients, you need one that provides you with as much done-for-you content as possible, preferably in different formats (text, pictures, illustrations and video) to maximize adoption by the patient. If you are a physical therapy private owner who is just starting out, it becomes even more important to find a solution that is affordable and easy to use, especially if you are not technologically savvy and are limited with time.
This article should help you make some decisions about a HEP program for your practice, and I welcome your comments and feedback about what you’ve used so that other PTs can learn from your insight. Please scroll to the bottom of the article and post your comments in the comments section if you’d like to add anything.
Web-based home exercise program solutions allow the physical therapist to create and edit programs online using any computer. These solutions also allow the patients to quickly and easily access the exercises from a computer or smart phone. Many web-based solutions allow you to save patient profiles and include video demonstrations as well. For best results, home exercise programs should be integrated with an EMR solution so the program flows through directly to the notes for that particular patient. This makes things more streamlined for the practice owner. Having said that, there are several free HEP solutions so you may be able to use – a convenient HEP solution independent of your EMR.
While there are several software providers (all of them do a great job) that provide advanced 3D graphics to display patient exercises, I have been unable to find evidence that these are indeed more effective for enhancing patient compliance as compared to well-illustrated exercise handouts and traditional 2D videos.
As technology keeps improving, it is important to find the right balance between ease of use and graphical sophistication. The mode of delivery of the HEP solution (print, video, MMS (mobile marketing using video messages of HEP to patients cellphones) is important since it makes it easier for the patient to ‘consume’ the home exercise program. As the patient becomes more compliant with the HEP program, the recovery time is reduced which enhances the reputation of the clinic. Therefore, a home exercise program is not simply an ‘adjunct’ to patient care but an important component of the reputation of your practice and its perception by the patient community.
Adoption of an HEP program be facilitated by simple patient handouts, reinforced by a personalized website link that the patient can conveniently access. Patients who have smart phones (and an increasing number of patients do) can conveniently access video demonstrations from their mobile devices.
Cross-browser and cross-device compatibility (IPad, IPhone, Android, PC) is critical to maximize the adoption of the home exercise program especially for patients in today’s ‘mobile’ economy. It’s important to cater to the preferred consumption mode of different audiences (mobile, professional patients versus seniors with limited access to technology) when delivering your home exercise program. In fact, this may play a bigger role in HEP adoption as compared to fancy graphics and thousands of videos in a content library.
You can purchase a flip camcorder for under $100 on Amazon and create your own exercise videos and upload them to YouTube. You can then embed the YouTube video on your own website and make that link available to your patients by email or on your website.
I wouldn’t worry about ‘high professional quality’ in the videos. As long as the videos demonstrate the right technique, range of motion and breathing pattern, that’s all that matters. The most successful Youtube videos tend to be simple and ‘real’.
If you are a PT looking to provide custom home exercise program and traditional HEP software is not an option, consider uploading videos to a YouTube playlist which can then be shared with patients. This does have a limitation, wherein you are unable to print a pdf of the videos but it is a FREE option and is totally customizable. The number of HEP videos on YouTube is only going to increase in the near future. This gives you and your patients the ability to simply search for a particular exercise on YouTube and watch it anytime.
A HEP program provides your clinic with the opportunity to brand itself. Not only are you helping patients recover faster by providing them with an exercise program, you are also getting an opportunity to enter their ‘mind space’ outside of the clinic.
You can go a step further and ‘integrate’ other products and services you offer with ’embedded messaging’ inside your HEP program. Outside of a physical therapy patient newsletter (which is a great way to stay in touch with patients), a HEP program is the next best ‘engagement mechanism’ you can use effectively to communicate with and serve patients more effectively.
While you are at it, why not increase patient referrals by asking them to refer friends and family and educate patients about (integrated) services that you have to offer? All this can be done through messaging within the HEP.
These are some of the providers with HEP solutions for physical therapy practices. The list is not all inclusive, but it’s a good starting point for you to look into different providers and pick the one that works best for your needs:
The ideal home exercise program should allow you to create custom program for patients, print it out and hand it out to patients, email it to patients, and also add your own exercise video if needed. It should be easy to access, across all browsers, all operating systems and all mobile devices.
At the end of the day, home exercise programs should be simple and easy to use, instead of being technologically overwhelming. It’s best to look into the different providers and pick one that has worked for you. If you have any additional suggestions or recommendations about HEP programs, please share them in the comments section.