physiotherapy session at club health
Physiotherapy September 18, 2020

Data & Physiotherapy: Can They Legitimize The Industry?

By Club Health

Reading Time: 4 minutes

What on earth could physiotherapy have to do with data, one might wonder? As with most cases in life, there is no clear cut answer. The reason behind the ambiguity? Evolution. Progress. Development. 

Whilst physiotherapy dates back to the 1800s, the discipline has never found steady legs to get the recognition or legitimacy it deserves. There’s been studies that say it doesn’t, there’s been criticism about the way the practice is conducted and there’s generally been a lukewarm acceptance of physiotherapy in general. 

Some swear by it and others see it as a temporary solution to permanent problems. It is a profession and a discipline that has been caught between myth and reality, truth and hearsay. Physiotherapists have been searching for ways to legitimize their impact, their value and work and whilst there’s been progress, the progress has been slow. 

Enter data. 

Is Data The Solution To The Problem?  

Data is the most important business asset of our time. No matter the size of the company, the industry or the market, harnessing, analyzing and understanding data is the way businesses top their competition and achieve results. 

Data has been characterised as “the new oil”, as the deciding factor between success and failure, between progress and stagnation. Physiotherapy is not an exception. 

Whilst it’s hard to make a direct connection between manual therapy and online data sources, physiotherapy is finally finding a way to plug itself into a digital source. More importantly, physiotherapy is starting to build a data-based, numbers-backed case in its favour, shedding away the ghosts and skeletons of the past. 

Data is the solution and now it’s time to see how. 

How Is Data Legitimizing Physiotherapy? 

In the World Confederation of Physical Therapy Congress in Geneva 2019, there was a presentation titled, “We Need To Talk About Data”. For a colourful and playful summary, please watch this video

What the congress and the presentation make very clear, is that the entire industry understands the value of concepts and principles like big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

Data will give physiotherapy a new dimension, a new angle, a more professional look and feel. Here are some examples of how data can achieve that. 

  • Track, measure, report: How do you know when to plan your next physio visit? How do you track progress? By the way you feel? Infusing AI and data analysis into the physiotherapy profession, you will be able to let results speak for themselves. The patient will insert their current physical state into the platform and following sessions with the practitioner, the algorithm and the new input from the patient will be able to give a new course of action based on the new set of data. 
  • Self management plans: One of the most common criticisms against physiotherapy, is the countless visits to the practitioner’s office for sessions that look and feel the same. What data can afford you, is the ability to create easy-to-follow at home plans. The physiotherapist becomes more of an instructor, a mentor and the person who oversees a process that can now be practiced and monitored at home. 
  • Accurate profile building: Physio visits are not characterised by continuity. They feel like 3-4 episodes with an abrupt ending that are not related or connected to prior or future incidents. The reality is that injuries, discomforts or adjustments that caused you to visit a physio are not one-time wonders. The body builds and remembers. Leveraging data will allow practitioners to build a track record, a profile that will identify a detailed history of your visits and treatments. Back pain is related to neck pain and treating them in isolation, pretending there is no correlation is a huge mistake. 

Takeaways

Physiotherapy is trending towards a digital, data-centered future. The signs and the hope is that it will finally add the missing piece to an industry that has struggled to find its footing. 

The introduction of data will allow the discipline to expand, develop and attain a new level of respect amongst supporters and critics alike. It’s time to embrace data and physiotherapy is doing it with open arms.