Buyer's Guide to Home Exercise Program and Patient Engagement Apps

by Dave Townsend, MPT and Trevor Hopkins, DPT, OCS
Mar 4, 2020
12 min read
102 views

Today’s consumers are demanding the instant connection, convenience, effectiveness, and concierge service that today’s technology offers, and our physical therapy patients are no exception. How will you meet their expectations?

Buyers Guide to HEP

Technology is changing the way we do things. If you haven’t already done so, chances are you’ll soon be choosing to take an Uber to your Airbnb instead of a taxi to a hotel room!

Today’s consumers are demanding the instant connection, convenience, effectiveness, and concierge service that today’s technology offers, and our physical therapy patients are no exception. How will you meet their expectations?

Fortunately for our profession, there’s been a surge of new software and apps that can take your physical therapy practice into the 21st century while giving patients easy to follow home exercise programs right at their fingertips. Send those exercising stick figures walking!

Since over 80% of Americans (and 96% of your 18-29 year old patients) use smart phones, patients are expecting mobile access to their home exercise programs. This is great news for their HEP compliance and rehabilitation process. These technologies are aligned to the growing research supporting evidence-based therapy and individualized care. Smart phones can be a physical therapist’s best exercise tool if deployed with an effective app and online platform.

Our task as forward thinking practitioners is to choose the premium home exercise solution that both improves patient ease of use and creates superior outcomes while making clinic life easier for you! There’s nothing worse than deploying a technology that’s even more cumbersome and time consuming to use.

Our task as forward thinking practitioners is to choose the premium home exercise solution that both improves patient ease of use and creates superior outcomes while making clinic life easier for you! There’s nothing worse than deploying a technology that’s even more cumbersome and time consuming to use. When patients can see their exercises, accurately perform them and adhere to the prescribed routine, their enhanced results make them raving fans of physical therapy, who will refer to you while increasing the reputation of physical therapy in general. A superior patient experience is our best marketing.

We’ve researched, tested and interviewed some of the top physical therapists across the country to find the most popular, effective and user friendly home exercise platforms and apps available today. This review will focus on those that have iOS or android apps, in addition to online access through email and website portals. This article does not include HEP’s embedded in popular EMR software programs, nor self-directed physical therapy apps.

The a la carte, premium home exercise app and platforms discussed below share many valuable features like progress trackers, messaging, editing of dosage and repetition, push notifications and automated reminders.

However 2 distinct categories emerged in our review:

1) those with extensive, professional pre-fabricated video libraries with searchable databases

2) those that allow you to seamlessly create and deliver custom videos on the spot, during visits that shows the patient responding to your verbal cues.

Ultimately, the best program is the one that helps your patient adopt the behavior of compliance to do correctly execute their Home Exercise Program. If we can meet our patients on their smart phones where they are now getting their information and entertainment, we’ve already improved their chances for a successful plan of care.

Here are 8 recommended platforms in each of the two categories that have easy to access mobile app platforms:

Category 1

Professional pre-fabricated video libraries with protocols and templates.

Healigo:

Along with their funny tagline ‘Ditch the Printouts’, the founders of Healigo have done a really great job creating a cross platform experience using a growing list of over 3,000 exercises with templates and protocols for a wide variety of practice settings. The exercises can also be modified, customized to the therapist preferences. The physical therapist and patient can access the platform through iOS or Android app as well as through email links and online dashboard. It includes a progress tracker, in app secure messaging, daily reminders, and pain levels/response to exercise in an effort to improve adherence to the program and stay connected. Once the patient profile is created, you can pick from the extensive database of exercise videos and protocols. Then, once you’re done

they get sent seamlessly to the patient’s smart-phone app. The therapist can track progress on the convenient Clinician Dashboard or within the app. They offer a 30 day free trial, no credit card required. After that, it’s $15/ month per therapist with a 90 day money back guarantee! This is a great platform for a wide range of clinics that like to have pre-programmed protocols, templates and professionally made video instruction in a complete platform.

Physiotec

For over 25 years, Physiotec has been the leader in professional, pre-fabricated home exercise videos with over 10,000 and growing. They’ve recently taken it up a notch to include 4K video and a patient smart-phone app. As always, they take requests for videos that are not in their library. You request the exercise and they’ll have it created within 10 days. One advantage of Physiotec is their integration with multiple EMR software programs or it can stand alone ‘a la carte’. They have also added an integration to your clinic’s website whereby the patient views exercises through your website to drive more traffic. Not all patients will see this as an advantage because it’s one more step to access their program. Most patients are asking for easy, smart-phone access, which Physiotec has.

Medbridge

Many of you have probably heard of Medbridge because it has gained popularity over the past 10 years as an HEP and continuing education machine all in one. The stand-alone HEP app platform offers similar capabilities as Physiotec. Adding new patients is easy by entering their name and e-mail address from your computer or tablet. From there you can easily search and drag and drop exercises from a library of over 5000 professional videos with audio or written subtext in English or Spanish. You can also customize by creating and adding your own videos over time, or request a new exercise for Medbridge to create for you. A nice feature is that you can mirror videos to represent both sides of the body, customize name, description, and parameters of exercises, and create and share templates within your organization. Also, as a time saver, you can copy the exercise details to post into an EHR to save re-writing it. The price is $300/ year for the home exercise and continuing education course options.

Physitrack

This international company lets you choose from a database of over 4,200 exercises in different languages. The professionally made videos include audio instructions with a nice British accent voice over, but for non-English speaking patients using the PhysiApp, the language is automatically converted to the native language of the device they use. Exercises can be searched for by name, difficulty, specialty (such as neurological, musculoskeletal or cardiovascular), or equipment used. The search function is fairly comprehensive. A quick search for “calf stretch” or “gastroc stretch” brought me similar results. Patients are added with first and last name as well as date of birth. After the exercises are sent the patient will be given a code which they can put into their PhysiApp to view their exercises. Patient education can be sent along with the videos. You can even add your own videos and share them with colleagues within your department. Finally, Physitrack allows you to track patient outcomes and receive notifications when patients fall behind. Physitrack can integrate seamlessly with Telehealth and many practice management systems. Price begins at $10.99 per month for each practitioner in a clinic of 10 or less users. Custom pricing exists for larger clinics and institutions.

BlueJay Engage

BlueJay began as a home exercise platform and has branched out into tele-health, Ai, and Virtual PT. Even though they have attached all of these extra technologies related to tele- health and Ai, their stand-alone home exercise library is user friendly and a patient mobile app is available. We need to meet patients where they are, on their phones. So, having an easy one- click mobile app that contains their home program increases the likelihood that they will follow through with it. Blue Jay has a large library of professionally created exercise videos and the ability to upload your own, too. You have to contact them for pricing option since they do not publish their rates. If you’re considering tele-health as part of your practice this is a solution worth looking into.

Physiotools

Physiotools has been a leader in professional, pre- fab exercises, templates and protocols since 1987. They have progressed with advancements on app technology to offer a patient app called PT Momentum. Similar to Physitrak, they have exercise videos in different languages and a wide range of disciplines

including Pediatrics, Neuro, Aquatic, Cardio, Pelvic Floor, Respiratory and Speech, to name a few. They offer a 14 day trial by filling out a web form with no obligation to buy. After that it’s $229/ year per practitioner, and $99/ year per additional user and a student version that is free.

Category 2

Create and deliver custom videos on the spot, during patient visits.

Switchback Health

This is the new kid on the block with a different take on home exercises. It’s a complete platform for quickly and securely taking videos during patient visits that get instantly sent to the patient’s smart-phone app and computer with an email link. The videos are organized in a visually appealing ‘feed’ for the patient and therapist. New exercise videos are stacked on the previous ones, so the therapist can view, add, edit, delete or archive videos depending on how the patient is progressing. Taking videos is intuitive by using an ‘add exercises’ button within the patient profile that opens the camera on your device to take HIPPA secure videos within the app while you are teaching them in the clinic.

Then, you can add dosage parameters like reps, sets, duration, or any other additional notes for the patient. Additionally, there is a ‘library’ where you can make your own home exercise videos, organize them yourself, and add them to patient programs. A progress tracker, reminders, and secure messaging are included. They offer a 30 day free trial which includes one on one training, no credit card required. After that, the monthly membership is $25/ month per therapist with volume discount pricing available for larger clinics. Currently the app is only on iOS, so patients with Android phones get access to their program through the browser on their phone or computer. Physical therapists currently need iOS device like iPad, iTouch, or iPhone. This app is for therapists that want a fully custom platform to create the ultimate level of personalized care without having to search a database of exercises.

Phydeo

Phydeo was the first to create an easy solution for taking and sending videos during visits. It’s an easy to use, inexpensive way to take videos during patient instruction and send to the patient for viewing through an email link. As of now, there’s no patient specific app but the power of individualized instruction is a huge positive and worth experimenting with. They offer a 30 day free trial, no credit card required.

After that, it’s $9/ month per therapist with volume discount pricing. A nice feature is the ability to have your clinic logo included. You can send multiple exercises in one ‘batch’. However, once the videos are sent there is no dashboard to view a record of all the exercises you prescribed during a treatment plan. Also, as you add and progress to new exercises during the treatment plan, the patient receives a separate email every time and must refer back to the original email links to view their exercises. The videos are stored in the cloud adding a level of security, but U.S. HIPPA compliance is not mentioned. It would be advised to review your organization’s HIPPA policies before using. Overall, this is a branded, quick, inexpensive and easy way to film and send videos during visits if you don’t need a dashboard to keep their program organized or progressed. It’s definitely worth trying out.

"Category 3"

Grab your patient’s smart-phone

We wanted to include this option even though its not an app, because many physical therapists and students that we interviewed said that they preferred taking quick videos with the patient’s phone versus searching for pre-fabricated exercises in a database. While this method of creation and delivery is fast and inexpensive, the videos get lost in the patient’s personal camera roll and the physical therapist doesn’t have access to modify, progress, or keep a track of the videos.

Whether you are a physical therapist that prefers professional pre- fabricated video exercises and protocols, or the enhanced relationship building by creating personalized videos on the fly with your patient as the star, choosing the right plan for you is an important decision. Whichever you choose, don’t get caught asleep at the wheel in a taxi, only to find out the PT office across town is harnessing technology for a glowing patient experience, lighting up social media with rave reviews! Any of these companies will be happy to give you a personal tour of their platforms so you can elevate your practice to meet your patients’ increased expectations for convenience and excellence.

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