More than 30 million children ages 14 or younger participate in sports each year, with over 3.5 million of them experiencing an injury. About one in four adults continue to play sports as they age, but with a corresponding (and obvious) risk of injury.
From baseball to bowling, football to soccer, a sports doctor is kept quite busy responding to a host of injuries from these activities every year. Increasingly, physicians specializing in sports medicine are turning to telemedicine technology as a way to improve their efficiency in responding to patient needs in a busy practice setting.
How to Use Telehealth in Sports Medicine
SportMedToday defines the orthopedic physician that specializes in sports injuries as:
A sports medicine physician has significant specialized training in both the treatment and prevention of illness and injury. They are ideally suited to provide comprehensive medical care for athletes, sports teams or active individuals who are simply looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Telemedicine applications can be used both on and off the field as sports medicine doctors treat patients. While these physicians often triage injury, there are other ways to use telehealth to help patients. For example:
- Immediate care during a sporting event. If an athlete is injured during a game, a crucial part of early treatment is the assessment of the injury. This is especially critical if a concussion is suspected. Since it’s often not feasible or cost-effective for an orthopedic sports medicine professional to be on the sidelines of every game, telehealth allows these physicians to respond quickly in the event of an injury. Having the immediacy of an assessment and application of a treatment plan is particularly important if a concussion, back and spine, or other severe injury is suspected. Telehealth allows athletic trainers and coaches to provide hands-on care under the supervision of an orthopedic sports doctor right on the field of play. Using telehealth to bring together orthopedic sports doctors removes the responsibility from coaches for determining if a student-athlete should return to the game, instead of allowing a trained medical professional to make the determination.
- Reducing unnecessary ER visits. When a patient is injured during a Friday night football game, it’s hard for parents, coaches, and training staff to determine if the injury requires an emergency room visit. One study showed that telehealth reduced unnecessary emergency department visits by 6.7% or $2,468 per averted case. Not only does telehealth save hospitals money, but also families, whose out-of-pocket costs could range into the thousands with any emergency treatment requiring transportation to an ER.
- Telehealth travels with the sports team. Another important consideration for telehealth applications is that the technology allows the doctor to travel with the team. If a child or adult is injured during an away game, this allows the orthopedic sports doctor to extend care. It’s an important way to improve customer service to patients. While regulations vary when crossing state lines, sports medicine treatment via telehealth can extend across a dispersed geography, allowing the immediacy of care from a trusted physician even during “away” games.
- Training support before the game. Telehealth can bring an orthopedic sports medicine doctor into the training room in a way that can support workout regimens. The sports doctor can offer training, nutrition, and workout advice. They can answer health questions and provide additional support that is lower cost and faster than having an on-site clinical visit.
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation. Given that 90% of all sports-related orthopedic injuries do not require surgery, providing rehabilitation treatment is highly important. But healing can be particularly painful and difficult when mobility is restricted. Telehealth can provide a way for patients to visit their doctors without adding the stress of travel when they are not mobile. It can eliminate the hassles of driving, parking, and physically getting the mobility-restricted patient to the physician’s office. It can help with medication management. Finally, telemedicine allows doctors to check in with patients even during their rehab to ensure that any physical therapy they’re conducting at home is completed effectively.
Telehealth is a way to leverage the power of modern technology to help doctors extend their practice onto a playing field or into a home. Reaching patients where they live, work, and play is an important methodology for improving patient satisfaction scores. For the orthopedic sports medicine doctor, this is an important way to provide better care. Telehealth can improve the comfort of a medical visit when mobility is reduced. Studies show that telemedicine is not only effective but a greatly appreciated convenience that your patients will appreciate.
Benefits of Telehealth in Sports Medicine
Last year Becker’s Hospital Review covered a presentation given at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition. Researchers at the Nemours Children’s Health System shared outcomes from their use of telehealth in a pediatrics sports medicine practice. Their findings included:
- Orthopedic sports medicine doctors ended up spending more time with their patients – not less. A typical patient spent 88% of their visit in a one-on-one with their doctor. In the traditional clinical on-site visit, they spent just 15% minutes actually seeing the clinician.
- Each telehealth visit saved the clinic and the health system $24 per patient on average.
- Patients (and their parents) saved, too; each telehealth visit cost $50 less in travel costs and 51 minutes in wait time per visit.
- 98% of patients said they’d like to continue to use the virtual visit model when appropriate for future exams. The number went up to 99% when patients were asked if they would recommend telehealth to other families.
Telehealth provides an important mechanism for doctors to provide personalized care in remote settings. For the traveling athlete, it’s an important and effective safety net.
Transitioning to Telehealth
OrthoLive offers the orthopedic sports medicine doctor a convenient platform for extending the reach of their practice. An orthopedic surgeon specifically designed the OrthoLive app for orthopedic applications. The tool is offered as a low-cost subscription service on a secure, HIPAA-compliant architecture proven to benefit patients and clinical teams.
Telehealth provides today’s student or adult athlete the convenience of care that extends across geographies. It’s a practical and cost-effective way for sports medicine doctors to provide on-call coverage that’s just a few clicks away. Contact OrthoLive to talk about your options.