When Naveen Khan injured her back and needed three years of physical therapy, she wasn’t a very compliant patient.
The exercises were easy to forget because she had only written or oral instructions, counting during each exercise became tedious, and she didn’t have reminders to alert her to start her therapy. So she looked for an app to help.
“It didn’t exist,” Khan said. “So I built it so the therapist could send me personal instructions.”
The result is PT Pal, an app launched in 2013 that patients can get for free through participating therapy providers — or for a one-time $29.99 fee if the patient’s therapist doesn’t use it. The PT selects pre-loaded, patient-specific exercises that the app will display when the patient logs in. The app gives the patient drawings, videos and instructions for each exercise. It also tracks the patient’s progress and how much pain or difficulty the patient had during each exercise, and it can send the information back to the therapist.
“Effective tools are so important,” said Khan, CEO of PT Pal’s producer Health Tech Pal Corp., which has offices in Dallas and Los Angeles. “There’s nowhere else in medical care where you have to do this really physical work on yourself at home or outside the clinic.”
How patients use PT Pal
Jane, a patient whose hand injury required tendon repair surgery, has required physical therapy three times a week for nearly six months. She has to complete exercises several times a day and started using PT Pal about a month ago.
“I would have wanted this six months ago after the first surgery” when she had to do exercises every hour, said Jane, who asked that her last name be withheld. “It gets a bit tedious, so having something visual helps me a lot.”
The app also provides encouragement, with pop-up windows telling patients they’re almost done with the exercises, she said.
Providers appreciate tracking tools
As healthcare evolves, the app’s tracking feature could become an important piece in providers receiving payment because more payers are requiring patient data, Khan said.
Most of PT Pal’s customers are hospitals that want to document that patient’s exercises are being done, but more physicians are starting to take notice because they want to create a continuity of care, Khan said.
The app gives therapists the tools to follow up with noncompliant patients about what’s keeping them from completing their therapy and whether they need to come in for more instruction, Khan said. That can be especially helpful when patients live far from the clinic where they receive care.
“Therapists say thank you, but when patients say thank you and how important it is, it’s pretty amazing,” Khan said. “It’s been extremely rewarding to see that we’ve made a huge impact for people in their personal care and rehabilitation.”
Karen Long is a freelance writer.