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Duke Affirms Cost Savings from Physical Therapy Via Telehealth

The long-awaited VERITAS study, conducted by the Duke Clinical Research Institute, finds that healthcare providers saved almost $2,750 per patient when using telehealth instead of in-person physical therapy.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Healthcare providers saved almost $2,750 per patient by using telehealth instead of in-person treatment for post-discharge physical therapy after knee replacement surgery, according to researchers at Duke University.

The long-awaited study, launched in 2016 by the Duke University School of Medicine’s Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), makes the case for a remote patient monitoring platform that enables providers to coordinate care at the patient’s home rather than the doctor’s office or clinic.

The results are of interest to providers who want to improve post-discharge patient outcomes and reduce rehospitalizations, as well as physical therapists who see telemedicine as a means of expanding their business and boosting patient engagement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates roughly 700,000 total knee replacements are done each year, the most frequent hospital procedure in the US. With an aging population, growth in the number of younger adults diagnosed with knee osteoporosis and more people remaining active later in life, that number is expected to top 3 million by 2030.

The VERITAS (Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation In-home Therapy: A Research Study) project followed roughly 300 people who had undergone total knee replacement surgery at one of four sites in the US. Researchers split the group into two parts, with half receiving PT treatment in the doctor’s office or a clinic and the other half using the VERA virtual exercise rehabilitation platform developed by San Diego-based Reflexion Health.

Researchers measured clinical outcomes, healthcare services used and total costs three months after discharge, and found that providers using the telehealth platform with clinical oversight saved an average of $2,745 per patient. The study also found that both modes of treatment were similar in reducing knee instability and improving knee function.

“Physical therapy is a critical component of recovery for patients following total joint replacement surgery,” Janet Prvu Bettger, PhD, an associate professor with the Duke Department of Orthopedic Surgery and principal investigator of the study, said in a press release. “As people live longer and these surgeries become more common, it is important to identify solutions that maintain or improve outcomes while decreasing the burden on patients and providers.”

“We are pleased with the results of the study which show that Reflexion Health’s VERA coupled with remote clinician oversight is a cost-effective paradigm for physical therapy – one that is more convenient for patients while providing clinicians greater insight into the recovery process,” she added.

The VERITAS project will be presented at next month’s American Health Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) Annual Meeting in Dallas.

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