Digitalisation is changing our world rapidly. We have been used to the Internet, e-mail, home banking or navigation systems for a long time. The digital world is advancing and bringing us artificial intelligence, mega-clouds or electronic patient files. The Corona crisis has brought the issue of digitalization even more into focus.
The core service of physiotherapy can’t be transferred to the internet. Manual therapy, fascial and movement therapy and physiotherapy on the device are all related to actual physical work by the therapist or rehabilitation trainer. Nevertheless, physiotherapy will have to adjust to sometimes-serious changes caused by the digital change.
Digitalisation is currently most evident in physiotherapy through the many products for simplifying practice procedures and administration. The large selection of different software solutions can also be found at FIBO. These range from clever scheduling and the billing module with error correction to interactive training planning. However, up to now, these software offers have had a major shortcoming – they are often not compatible with each other.
Internet platforms and video consultation hours
Due to the Corona crisis, the first excursions into telemedicine have now been made. The physiotherapist and osteopath Johannes Fetzer, one of our FIBO speakers, has offered his patients and customers a new service in the Corona Crisis. "For those who had reservations, we spontaneously offered a kind of video consultation via Jameda, who offer a secure data line and work without a server in the USA. These online consultation hours were very well and gratefully received by patients and customers".
However, there are also other experiences, such as that of the Stuttgart sports physiotherapist Bodo von Unruh. He had already started to produce software and films for his own physio app years ago. However, the results could not stand up to the goals he had set himself. The Corona crisis, he says, has now shown how important personal contact is. "After the strict ban on contact, we realized how important it was for our patients and self-payers that we were there for them personally."
Internet services, such as the platform "werkenntdenbesten", offer a comprehensive overview of local physiotherapy practices on the net, which can also be evaluated. The data and contents are collected from the Internet or can be created and maintained by the practices themselves. While these platforms provide a good overview for patients and self-payers, the Internet service provider gains deeper market access. However, this is currently still restricted by a lack of specialists, i.e. a shortage on the supply side. Here, too, it is clear that data is the raw material of the future.
Legal initiatives in digitisation
Digital health applications (DiGA), better known as "app on prescription", are one of the legal initiatives in digitisation. The intention of the legislator is that apps should support the detection and treatment of diseases. One of these digital health applications is the app for pain patients developed by medicalmotion. This offers personalised exercises and supportive treatment for over 100 diseases. An interesting advantage of the app is that the user can carry out specific exercises even before the therapy appointment, thereby collecting information that allows symptoms to be determined more clearly and thus simplifies the therapy.
An exciting but not uncontroversial field of digitization is the telematics infrastructure. From 1 July 2021, owners of physiotherapy practices can voluntarily connect to the telematics infrastructure. This digital communication network, which connects the players in the health care system with each other, enables faster and simpler communication between service providers and allows the convenient exchange of medical data. Patients also benefit from this. It therefore also makes sense that all service providers should be able to access the electronic applications.
However, this is currently still one of the design flaws. It is true that the costs for the corresponding consoles, which enable digital exchange, are paid by the state. However, the necessary legitimation for the data exchange is regulated differently in the federal states for physiotherapists. It is also not yet clear which remuneration structure applies and which authorisations the physical therapist should receive. The background to the telematics infrastructure is the electronic patient file, which is to be available to citizens from 2021.
Digitisation at Meetingpoint Health at FIBO
With all these digital developments, one should not lose sight of another aspect that is likely to have the greatest long-term impact. The technical possibilities of digitisation automatically change our behaviour and our sense of entitlement. This means that even for industries that seem to be only slightly affected by digitization, they will have to face pressure to adapt.
The developments of digitization should also be examined critically, and not only because of the issue of data security. For comparison purposes, it is also worth looking at other industries. The fitness app for training, which automatically connects to the training device, informs about the training progress and shares the results with friends, is no longer a dream of the future. At FIBO, the topic of digitalisation will be highlighted at Meetingpoint Health.
Speakers such as Professor Dr. Zalpour from Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences or the entrepreneur Ralf Buchner will also have their say. The University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück, which is presenting itself at FIBO as a partner at Meetingpoint Health, has been dealing with digitisation in the physiotherapeutic context for several years. Digitisation is not only limited to the development of a speech-supported documentation software (implemented with the help of an ERDF grant), but also to other individual aspects of everyday clinical life. Digitisation will also bring the field of biomechanical assessments further into the foreground and thus objectify physiotherapeutic documentation.