PT Patients Prefer In-Home Care Over Virtual, Facility-Based Care, Study Finds

This article was originally published July 25, 2023 on McKnights Home Care.

Physical therapy (PT) patients show a strong preference for in-home PT over virtual or facility-based rehabilitation, a new study finds.

Luna, an in-home physical therapy provider, surveyed over 1,000 PT patients on their preferred means of receiving care. Younger and older adults both indicated that home care was most desirable, followed by in-clinic care. Virtual care was found to be least preferred, especially among adults older than 55.

According to a release from Luna, some patients found setting up virtual care equipment to be cumbersome, and the quality of care “did not meet their recovery needs.” In-person home care, on the other hand, can address the holistic needs of the individual, and patients found in-person meetings with providers to be more motivating for their recovery process.

“The study reveals the challenges of pure technology approaches given patient preferences and limitations, particularly among older people,” said RaeAnn Grossman, chief growth officer of Luna. “It also demonstrates the need for health plans and payers to have a truly holistic approach to physical therapy.” 

Though Luna’s study found that telehealth was patients’ least preferred option, virtual care continues to grow. Legislation such as the Expanded Telehealth Access Act aims to make virtual options available for more patients, including those in PT or occupational therapy. The convenience of virtual care is particularly helpful for people with immune disorders, or who live far from an in-person clinic, said Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), who co-sponsored the bill.

A report by consulting agency McKinsey & Company estimates that $265 billion worth of healthcare services could relocate to the home by 2025. Part of this shift is an increasing number of patients using telehealth; since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people using these virtual care services has grown by 11%.

Other research still finds that older adults increasingly prefer in-home rather than in-clinic care. A 2021 study found that patients and providers alike are looking into the home as a means to provide more convenient care.