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Physical therapy: The latest twist in telemedicine

Telemedicine has stretched into physical therapy.

Brian Piekarski, owner of Core Matrix Physical Therapy, handled clinical work for more than two decades before he launched a mobile business last April, traveling to homes and businesses across the region with his PT table and equipment bag in tow.

This month, he decided to cast a net for clients even wider. He is among dozens of physical therapists across the country who will offer free online physical therapy telehealth consultations.

Rob Vining, a physical therapist in Portland, Ore., who pioneered PT telehealth a dozen years ago, leads the new effort to expand into the internet frontier.

“The goal is to get more exposure on how PT can be an effective tool for delivery online,” said Piekarski, a Cheektowaga native who holds bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Daemen College.

The strength and conditioning specialist can handle general physical therapy needs but specializes in neck and vestibular work, particularly for those who struggle with dizziness.

Q: Why go mobile and telehealth?

There's no overhead. I don't have to pay for office space or utilities, just basically my vehicle. And it gives patients more of a concierge-type type treatment where you're getting one-on-one care. With mobile, I can only go so far. But with this, I can reach out anywhere in the state. This also gives more people access to a physical therapist.

Q: Why try telehealth?

So doctors can see how PT is done online and to give people another option instead of going to a brick-and-mortar clinic where you might pay a $50 copay. They're seeing four to five people an hour there, so how much real one-on-one time are you getting?

Q: How will it work?

A lot of folks try to address joint problems online by using YouTube, and it can be easy to take the wrong approach. You also get no feedback. Here you're getting a licensed therapist.

This is open for wellness. It can be back, neck, hips, shoulder, injury prevention. I’m trying to get used to the technology I’m giving to patients. Part of [offering this free] is the learning process.

Most of this is based on taking a good history. That's 90% of the PT evaluation. I have the office set up for the telehealth table behind me and I’ll demonstrate things. I can also provide videos of exercises and procedures, just send them a link, and they can watch it. When it's something serious, you send them to the doctor.

I’m not saying this is going to replace brick-and-mortar and mobile, it's just another avenue. Say there’s bad weather and you can't get to a clinic. All right, let's hop on a video call or let's get on a zoom call, and let's chat. Some people don't want to drive 40 miles for PT, either.

Q: What are your rates?

Telemedicine is free. I’m waiting to see how it goes before I start to charge after November. Mobile PT is $100 for an hour or $50 a half-hour. You can pay me and submit the bill to your insurance company or take if from a health savings account.

For more information, you can go to corematrixpt.com or call my business line at 391-2236.

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