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article imageTechnology offers a brave new world for physical therapy patients

By Kimberly Reynolds     Jan 22, 2014 in Technology
Technology is opening doors to innovation in patient care and rehabilitation, ranging from robotics to social media and beyond.
The practice of physical therapy has seen many innovative gains in the past decade according to Mahir Reiss, pediatric physical therapist. The expanded role of technology in treatment has contributed to a shortened healing time for a patient, increased comfort of the patient during treatment and has created improvements in the overall quality and options of care available.
Some of the advances seem right out of a science fiction movie as technological wonders bring movement to the disabled, access to communication for those unable to respond in conventional ways and robotic devices to assist therapists. It is a brave new world and physical therapy is benefitting from the advances.
With technological progress coming at such a dizzying speed we asked Mahir Reiss, co-founder of Reiss and Westford Physical Therapy, to list the innovations he sees making a difference now and in the future. With 35 years of clinical experience, Dr. Reiss is the ideal person to provide insight into new and enhanced therapies available.
Aquatic Therapy Improves
For years physical therapists have relied on aquatic therapy. Aquatic therapy is a non-weight bearing form of rehabilitation that helps strengthen weakened muscles and limbs. Aquatic therapy has improved with equipment that keeps the water warmer and circulating in a more effective way.
“The concept of aquatic therapy is not new, it has been practiced by different cultures for thousands of years,” says Mahir Reiss. “The difference is the technological improvements in heating and circulation systems make treatment easier and more comfortable. The therapist can now direct the treatment with more accuracy.”
Robotics Drive Revolution
No area of physical therapy has undergone more changes than the field of robotic assistance and treatment. Ideas that were on the drawing board a few years ago are now being tested. These new technologies carry a huge price tag and require a lot of tech assistance, but the results are impressive.
“Robotics will power the future of physical therapy,” states Mahir Reiss. He believes that devices such as the Ekso Suit will give hope to those unable to walk. The Ekso suit is an aluminum skeleton that fits around a patient and helps retrain their limbs for walking.
“Manufacturers and therapists are combining to design equipment and therapies that help rehabilitate and strengthen limbs. This shows how modern approaches to physical therapy are combining with technological gains.” Mahir Reiss is convinced this joint approach is the way of the future: “It isn’t technology or therapy independent of each other. It is about combining the best practices of both to give better patient care and outcomes.”
The general public is often caught up with the advances in technology and overlooks the place therapy is playing in the revolution. There are now rehabilitation robots that can detect impairments in post-stroke patients or measure the position, direction and speed of limb movements. The information is important but there needs to be a trained therapist to incorporate the information into the treatment.
Pediatric Therapy Goes Social
Mahir Reiss believes there is a place in physical therapy for social media, instant messaging and face to face technologies like Skype. He says pediatric physical therapy is benefitting from the tech revolution. “Children today communicate much different than even a few years ago,” he points out “and part of providing therapy includes connecting with the patient in the way they are most comfortable. For children, this is often based in technology.”
By using communication technology physical therapists can keep updated on the patient’s condition, offer suggestions to make the child more comfortable and most of all be available for questions and concerns. “Physical therapy has become more than the movement of limb,” says Reiss. “Children especially respond better when there is an open patient/therapist communication. The advances in technology make this easier and more efficient.”
The practice of physical therapy is being changed by the tech revolution. As gains are made, it is important to remember the most important interface isn’t between hardware and software. It is between patients and therapists like Mahir Reiss, with improvements in technology providing dynamic support.
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