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Man exercising during remote physical therapy session

Virtual to Reality: Bringing Advocacy into Action

Published Date: Sep 13, 2023
Man exercising during remote physical therapy session

Kristen Kiernan, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist Manager
Dr. Kiernan's experience involves treating patients across the continuum of care in digital health, large hospital, and private practice settings.

When I became a physical therapist over a decade ago, I showed up to work each day with one straightforward, if not oversimplified, goal: leave each individual better off than where they started.

From the outset of my career, this meant being energetically driven by progress. I’ve cared for thousands of patients over that time, who collectively taught me that progress occurs on a spectrum—sometimes it’s fast, other times slow, and it’s usually not easy. But it always starts with the individual.

This became a salient learning for myself and my colleagues at Hinge Health as we forged our own paths for progress in digital musculoskeletal care.

My efforts to propel change began with advocacy work in February 2023, when I joined hundreds of physical therapists across Texas to participate in Legislative Day, put on by the Texas Physical Therapy Association. One of this year’s key initiatives was direct access to physical therapy, which would enable patients to engage with their physical therapist for an extended period without the requirement of a doctor’s prescription.

Months after a series of coordinated meetings with our state representatives, I learned that this legislation would not come to pass this session.

It was a reminder that progress takes persistence, a sentiment echoed by Drew Contreras, Vice President of Clinical Integration & Innovation at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA):

“Be the PT that you imagined when you were applying to PT school. Be the one that does the good things and fights the good fight. Of course, things have not been perfect or gone completely according to what you envisioned; it was never going to. You have to get back up, every time, get back up and get back after it.”

While my journey with progress was ‘slow’ and ‘not easy,’ many of our physical therapists found success in their endeavors. Each of them delivers care in a virtual environment, yet has found a way to expand their impact with musculoskeletal care far beyond their computer screens.

Within the last year, these clinicians have helped secure better access to care; committed to research and best practices; supported diversity, equity, and inclusion; and pushed the boundaries of technology and innovation to deliver personalized care.

This is something you will find evident in their own words:

ADVOCACY

Mary Kimbrough, PT, DPT

Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy

Lobbied for direct-access physical therapy in Missouri to expand patient access to care. SB 51 was signed into law by the Governor on April 27, 2023

“Physical therapy plays a vital role in Missouri’s healthcare system. Attending lobby day allowed me to advocate for quick and equitable access to physical therapy for the people of my home state.”

RESEARCH

Melanie Topete, PT, DPT

Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy

Presented an abstract at Combined Sections meeting, APTA’s largest national physical therapy conference, to share research demonstrating how an acute digital health PT solution can help prevent chronic pain

“The opportunity to be part of the research study was meaningful because it shows that we value the three pillars of evidence-based practice, which includes using ‘best available evidence.’ As digital MSK programs continue to become more accessible, it’s important they can show data supporting improved patient function and decreased pain. This type of work increases my confidence in treating via telehealth.”

DIVERSITY, EQUITY, & INCLUSION

Curt McGill, PT, DPT

Physical Therapist Manager

Forged a partnership between Hinge Health and the National Association of Black Physical Therapy (NABPT) to provide scholarships to practicing physical therapists and prospective students in support of greater diversity in the profession. 

"Hinge Health’s partnership with the NABPT has been very impactful. It has allowed us to support the professional development of Black physical therapists, promote the profession of physical therapy within the Black community, and improve diversity amongst our clinical PT team here at Hinge Health."

INNOVATION

CJ Morrow, PT, DPT

Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy

Tackles salient topics around technology in physical therapy as part of APTA’s Frontiers in Rehabilitation, Science, & Technology (FiRST) Council

“I am passionate about pushing the boundaries of our profession, and one of the ways that we can do that is through technology. As a member of the FiRST Council, I am able to collaborate with other physical therapists about how our capabilities as PTs can evolve by integrating technology into our practice, and how digital health can help us to personalize our treatments.”

Looking Toward the Future

As we shape a better path forward to address musculoskeletal pain, it is important to imagine how we can leave each individual better off than where they started.

This means embracing the challenge to think big, while also recognizing that each one of us can start small.