Tony Zuloaga

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Tony Zuloaga is a licensed physical therapist with over 30 years of experience in orthopedics with a special emphasis on the spine, shoulder girdle and lower kinetic chain.

Some conditions require people to attend physical therapy sessions regularly, but many want to do their part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home.

For many people, however, continuity is a key factor in their rehabilitation.

To help address the issue, some physical therapists are going the same route as those in a variety of professions by emphasizing the services they can offer online.

“It’s almost like being in a clinic, but not quite,” said Tony Zuloaga, center manager for NovaCare Rehabilitation’s Peters Township location. “We cannot do the hands-on part, but at least it is better than losing what they have or not having anything at all.”

At this point, therapists are seeing patients at the center on a limited basis, with necessary screenings and preventive measures against COVID-19, and in-home sessions can be scheduled taking similar precautions.

For those who are following stay-at-home directives related to the novel coronavirus, the center is offering Telerehab, “basically a face-to-face session through video and audio,” Zuloaga said.

“It is over a platform that’s secure and is also HIPAA-compliant,” he said, referencing privacy requirements of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

“During those sessions, we can see how the patient is doing. We can assess how the patient is doing because we have the video capability. The patient can ask us questions,” he continued. “We can give them exercises. I can share my screen, and I have videos of exercises. In turn, we can also send them videos of those exercises via email or through an app that they can download.”

Advanced technological aptitude is not necessarily required.

“The process is very, very simple,” Zuloaga said. “You can do it with your phone. You can do it with a tablet, or you can do it with a computer.”

A longtime practitioner who is certified in orthopedic physical therapy by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties, Zuloaga wants to spread the word about the availability of Telerehab.

“What we’re trying to promote is that people that who shouldn’t come, who don’t feel comfortable coming out, stay home. You have this alternative,” he said. “We don’t want groups of people together at the same time, and we don’t want the most vulnerable to be exposed to potential infection.”

While virtual sessions do have their limitations, Zuloaga and his colleagues consider them to be effective with regard to helping patients feel better, which in turn requires them to perform prescribed movements and exercises properly.

“It’s very easy to compensate and to do things that you believe you may be doing them right,” Zuloaga said. “But you may not.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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