Physical therapy software

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Rheumatologists work closely with physical therapists. PT’s are an integral part of arthritis treatment.

From the American Physical Therapy Association, the Medical College of Georgia and

Physical therapy software as part of computerized learning and scheduling is becoming more of a reality. Clinical documentation software and systems offer a wide range of technology solutions. The growth in usage of the software is partially due to the large number of developing technology options. It's also being embraced due to the number and types of tasks performed by the system.

Documentation software is likely to include such items as procedure charting, evaluation reporting, and chart notes. However, complete documentation packages may also incorporate such functions as:

• Patient registration
• Patient scheduling
• Therapist scheduling
• Resource scheduling
• CPT code selection
• Billing unit calculation
• Management reporting
• Referral tracking
• Referral tracking

The range of technology solutions is particularly apparent in the process by which the therapist enters data into the system. Although the traditional computer keyboard may still be used, the process often is simplified with "point and click" technology in which many of the entries can be made by clicking onscreen boxes or buttons.

A few documentation systems run not only on desktop computers but also on touch-screen computers and "tablet" computers. These have been modified from other medically oriented systems.

Using touch-screen computers, mouse-based "point and click" operations are replaced by the therapist entering his or her data by touching the computer screen. Others incorporate a bar code scanner so that the therapist can scan necessary items of information. Often, the documentation software then takes data entered with touch screens or bar codes and uses a template-similar to a form letter-to "write" drafts of reports that the PT then reviews and edits.

A portable system allows a PT to enter information while with the patient. Another recent innovation-wireless communication-allows the PT to both enter data and instantly retrieve the patient's record electronically.

Also being introduced is voice recognition software. In some cases, general-purpose voice recognition software has been linked to electronic documentation systems. However, the particular requirements of health care have led to development of profession-specific programs, including some designed specifically for physical therapists. No voice recognition system is perfect, of course, although the accuracy rate can reach 95%-98%. They also can "learn" the voice of an individual user. Unfortunately, the “training” required may be frustrating at first. Typically, a physical therapist dictates patient notes. The computer transcribes the recording. Then someone on the PT's staff reviews the dictated text while listening to the PT's audio notes. The edited transcript can be placed in the patient's electronic file.

Another emerging option is the use of digital cameras to supplement written documentation. A picture can be inserted into electronic notes, and health care providers may be reimbursed more quickly. Another advantage of digital documentation is the objective nature of the information.

At the Medical College of Georgia's Department of Physical Therapy, they use a special educational device. The patient is a highly sophisticated computerized mannequin known as the Human Patient Simulator (HPS), made by Medical Education Technologies Inc (METI), Sarasota, Florida. The HPS can be found in more than 250 hospitals, medical and nursing schools, community colleges, and military bases.

The educators work closely with an engineer who programs the "patient" to respond to different scenarios. Students are provided with immediate feedback. For example, one scenario involves having the leg EKG lead "fall off" if the leg is moved too far.

It is felt that the HPS encourages critical thinking skills that students will employ throughout their careers. The student assesses the 'patient,' and learns how to decide if 'he' is stable enough for physical therapy, or if he or she should modify the approach that day, just as a PT would do in the clinical setting.

The field is rapidly changing and the information on this page may already be outdated.

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