You may have heard of the practice that’s become known as telehealth, which basically is the online version of a doctor’s visit.
Physical therapist Kelly Kuhn thought the concept could apply to her line of work.
“I found other physical therapy providers who are doing telehealth, and I reached out to them and talked to them,” she said. “They told me how they’re doing it and their successes, and I thought, why not here in Pittsburgh?”
And so the Bethel Park resident has developed a platform to provide services via the Internet, with the goal of making physical therapy accessible to more people through an avenue that can save time and, by extension, money.
“I think if we can make it more convenient, make it more about self-management and empower people to do what they want to do, then it will be more effective,” she explained.
A licensed physical therapist for 18 years, Kuhn has spent most of her career treating patients in the traditional manner, seeing them by appointment and helping them work through various forms of movement to improve their conditions.
“There will be some people who still need that model,” she said.
“But I think for the average person, it’s more of: ‘Hey, here’s what you do. You go work on it, try it, come back to me. Where did you do well? Where did you struggle? Modify it a little bit, and go try it.”
Using a computer and webcam, a person seeking physical therapy services can communicate with Kuhn, starting with a detailed conversation about the problem – “Talking is always the most important part” – and using the webcam for her to view movement and how it may be contributing to the situation.
Then together, they come up with a plan.
“I like to use the word ‘strategy,’” Kuhn said. “It’s not just, ‘Hey, you’re going to do this exercise and that exercise.’ We’re going to use these movements, and here’s how you can use them and fit them into your life.”
Although, at this point, insurance does not cover online physical therapy sessions, she hopes her approach helps keep the financial outlay manageable.
“In the end, you don’t need to come to me three times a week for two hours at a time,” she explained. “Sometimes it will be two visits. Sometimes it will be one visit, but just a handful. So that way, you’re keeping cost down, keeping time down, making it convenient.”
After earning her master of physical therapy degree from the University of Florida, Kuhn had the opportunity to work with athletes of all levels, including top professionals. Today, she offers services tailored to avid runners who are experiencing difficulties.
“Running analysis can help pinpoint particular problems. Sometimes we can even make changes to how they’re running, depending on the case,” she explained. “Just by looking at their form, we can get a lot of information to help build their plan.”
She also wants to make sure they continue to pursue their fitness efforts.
“What people do a lot of times is when they get hurt, they’ll just stop,” Kuhn said. “And that’s the worst thing, I think, that you can do. We’re trying to get rid of that ‘Hey, just rest. Rest is always best,’ and trying to encourage people to keep moving even though it hurts, so that their recovery isn’t as long.
“I think that’s another way telehealth excels,” she continued, “because I can get to people faster and try to get them before they’ve taken a month off. Once you’ve taken that month off, we have a lot more ground to cover.”
As with most pursuits in life, Kuhn places a priority on people doing what they like to do.
“We need to get people doing movement that they enjoy, because that’s the best movement. And telling people to stop doing things they enjoy is not helping them.”