TUESDAY, Jan. 28, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Virtual physical therapy (PT) with telerehabilitation for skilled clinical oversight significantly lowers three-month health care costs after total knee arthroplasty (TKA) while providing similar effectiveness to traditional PT, according to a study published in the Jan. 15 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Janet Prvu Bettger, Sc.D., from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues randomly assigned patients undergoing TKA at four clinical sites to either a virtual PT program (143 patients; involving a digitally simulated coach, in-home three-dimensional biometrics, and telerehabilitation with remote clinician oversight by a physical therapist) or to traditional PT care in the home or outpatient clinic (144 patients). Total health care costs were assessed 12 weeks after discharge.

The researchers found that virtual PT had lower costs at 12 weeks after discharge versus usual care (median, $1,050 versus $2,805). Virtual PT patients had fewer rehospitalizations versus the usual care group (12 versus 30; P = 0.007). With respect to the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score at six weeks and 12 weeks, virtual PT was noninferior to usual PT. Noninferiority was also seen with respect to knee extension, knee flexion, and gait speed at six weeks and in terms of pain and hospital readmissions at 12 weeks. Reported falls were more frequent for the virtual PT patients (19.4 versus 14.6 percent).

“These findings have important implications for patients, health systems, and payers and suggest that virtual PT with a telehealth therapist for remote clinical monitoring and guidance should be considered for patients after TKA,” the authors write.

Two study authors are employees of Reflexion Health, the company that funded the study.

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