Revolutionizing Recovery: How physical therapy technology is changing the game

October 9, 2023   |   Physical Therapists

One industry leader improves documentation and communication to drive better PT outcomes

Ask any physical therapist about the worst part of their job, and high on that list is electronic medical records (EMR). The average clinician spends 16 minutes on charting per patient. Clinicians who see patients in quick succession to meet company quotas end up taking work home without compensation.

Luna, a physical therapy startup technology company launched in 2018, knew this had to improve. They developed Auto-Charting, an automated, voice-activated service that creates digital patient charts based on dictated answers to 5-10 questions. Luna’s physical therapists call within the app to answer questions and then review and edit the charts.

For physical therapists accustomed to documenting notes for 12 patients a day in a typical clinic, charting with Luna’s app can feel miraculous. According to Luna, physical therapists can complete patient documentation in 3-4 minutes with Auto-Charting. Those hours saved is time clinicians can spend focusing on patient care.

Documentation is often cited as a source of clinician burnout. Ken Charleston, PT, DPT, cites it as one of the reasons he left patient care to become senior clinical program manager at Luna. “I was spending more time focused on completing notes than what I enjoy, which is advocating for patient care and improving quality of care,” he says.

Using AI to improve physical therapy technology, communication and administrative efficiency

The Luna team continues to look for ways to use technology to elevate the physical therapy experience for clinicians and patients in order to improve outcomes.

Recently, the company launched a dedicated Artificial Intelligence (AI) division. With a focus on driving healthcare delivery and efficiency, the Luna Labs division is creating new AI products, including automated conversational tools to quickly assist patients and therapists with requests related to scheduling, rescheduling and billing. The goal is to leverage Large Language Models (LLMs), like ChatGPT, to improve the company’s Auto-Charting technology.

Improving the administrative side of patient care leads to a better work culture and patient outcomes

Charting is just one way the team at Luna uses technology to improve the physical therapy industry. The Luna app also makes communicating with referring physicians easier, reducing the back and forth with therapists. The Luna Pathways program, which Charleston oversees, includes monitored scheduling and clinical care coordination. A recent study completed by the company shows that after total joint replacement, for example, the program decreases pain by 30 percent compared to industry benchmarks.

Whenever there’s a new referring physician for a Luna patient, Charleston’s team reaches out to learn any specific preferences and protocols. 

Examples of questions include the following: 

  • How soon after surgery do they want their patients to be seen?
  • Do they want a pre-rehab visit?
  • What protocols and treatment preferences does that surgeon have?
  • How many physical therapy sessions does the physician prefer?
  • What kind of medical escalations or concerns does the doctor want to know?

Protocols based on these questions are entered into the Luna app for every patient with the same procedure under that referring physician. The PT who then treats those patients will get timely reminders and prompts in the app throughout treatment. 

A key part of that communication between a therapist and physician is knowing when to escalate a concern to the doctor’s office. The Luna team does that for the physical therapists by contacting the physicians on their behalf.

“Knowing when to escalate an issue to the physician, such as with signs of an infection, keeps patients out of hospitals and directs care to the physician’s team for triage,” says Charleston.

“The responsibility is on the physical therapists to reach out to a physician when receiving a referral to understand what they need,” says Charleston.

Physical therapists who work as contractors for Luna also benefit from the following administrative support: 

  • Billing
  • Marketing
  • Electronic Medical Records (EMR) 

This leaves physical therapists with more time to focus on patient care. 

“We support an independent physical therapist in doing what they love to do, which is treating patients,” says Charleston.

On the patient side, Luna’s technology matches users with physical therapists within 30 minutes of their home and with the specialty they need to support their recovery. Having physical therapy (PT) sessions at home has several benefits for patients:

  1. Convenience: PT at home is especially beneficial for those recovering from an injury or surgery that makes it hard to leave home. 
  2. Practical: Patients can work on activities of daily living with a physical therapist in the actual home environment. 
  3. Personalized: Rather than an outpatient clinic with multiple patients under a physical therapist’s care at once, PT at home is 1:1. 

Whether recovering from a sports injury, surgery or illness, physical therapy improves patient outcomes and reduces hospitalization. Finding ways to improve that experience for physical therapists and patients benefits everyone.

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