By Frank Fornari, PhD

Technological innovations are allowing a growing number of healthcare services to be provided in the patient’s home, including remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM). AI is changing the healthcare paradigm with real-time, clinically relevant medical technology that evaluates patient performance, improves patient adherence, and increases clinician access. It also improves the medical economics of treating a wide variety of pathologies. AI-driven, in-home care, under the watchful eye of one’s physical therapist, has been significantly enhanced by bringing together easy-to-use mobile applications, connected devices, data analysis, patients, practitioners, and payers.

RTM does not replace face-to-face interaction, initial in-person assessments, hands-on interventions, or the need for specialized equipment. RTM increases access to care, enables continuous tracking of a patient’s progress, identifies potential issues or setbacks early on, empowers patients to take an active role in their rehabilitation, can reduce the need for frequent in-person visits, minimizing travel expenses and time commitments for patients, and optimizes healthcare resources.

Customized, Objective In-Home Patient Care

With the latest advances in RTM, clinicians can practice in-home evidence-based, outcomes-driven care that can be tailored for each patient. AI-enabled RTM allows providers to gauge the success of therapy in part by measuring the patient’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL). It also opens the door for more in-depth analysis, scientific research, and helps answer questions such as “Is this normal? What should I do? Where should I go?”

The rapid expansion of the home health market comes at the right time for the physical therapy sector. The trend that allows for effective in-home therapy is part of a rapidly growing initiative, which McKinsey & Company projects an estimated $265 billion worth of Medicare services representing 25% of total care costs shifting to home care by 2025. According to a report from the United States Bone and Joint Initiative, more than half of the disabling conditions reported by persons aged 18 and older are related to musculoskeletal disorders. Further, musculoskeletal diseases affect nearly 70% of those age 65 and over in the United States, with trauma, back pain, and arthritis being the conditions most reported and for which care is most often sought at a rate that far outpaces both circulatory and respiratory disease—and carries a treatment cost that is far higher than more common health conditions. 

Providing More Support for Clinical Staff

While demand for physical and occupational therapy is exploding, there is a current shortage of healthcare professionals providing these services. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, the majority of physical therapy practices have a total vacancy rate of 16% across all employee categories, led by physical therapists. Nearly 41% of those practices also face higher turnover rates now versus two years ago—at a time when the Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting a 21% occupational growth rate for PT professionals through 2030.

These trends in staffing shortages have truly underscored the need for RTM that are expected to fuel the home health market, reducing healthcare costs by up to $150 billion in 2026. New technologies also support a proactive approach focused on getting patients the proper care at the proper location. 

A woman wears a monitor during in-home physical therapy for her arm. Photo: BioMech

AI-Powered In-Home Rehab

Orthopedic therapy now makes up the largest segment of the home health market (58% in 2022), due to an increase in musculoskeletal disorders, sports injuries, fractures, and joint replacements. It is also a segment of home health services where advanced sensor technology powered by AI is having the greatest impact, particularly in treating motion-related injuries, which can take years of exercise and physical therapy to correct.

In-home functional motion is one area where AI is making significant inroads. Patients perform prescribed movements while wearing AI-enabled motion sensors, which instantly and accurately provide feedback using graphics and numerical results. This instant feedback loop helps patients and clinicians more accurately perceive changes in neuromuscular activity, improving adherence and performance. 

AI-enabled sensor technology has also made in-home pain management an option because of its ability to quantify previously unmeasurable parameters like the effects of pain. Sensors can also objectify physical, surgical, pharmacological, and cognitive therapies.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

AI and RTM technologies are playing an integral role in healthcare’s transition from facility to home-based care for fast-growing service lines, including geriatric medicine, pain management, and orthopedics. Meaningful AI is fully dependent on data quality and relevant output. Input data must be precise, accurate, and reproducible; output must be clinically meaningful. Also required are necessary components including state-of-the-art algorithms, machine learning, and predictive analytics, as well as easy and accessible user interfaces, validated and portable medical devices, and updated medical billing procedural guidelines and codes.

AI-enabled RTM allows providers to monitor their patients’ progress at home anddeliver reminders and alerts to patients and practitioners to act before health conditions worsen and a higher level of intervention is required. Because these AI-powered applications are used by the patient in their home—where they are most comfortable—engagement with and adherence to treatment plans can increase, which leads to better outcomes. 

Frank Fornari, PhD, is chairman and co-founder of BioMech, which develops and distributes state-of-the-art, real-time motion analytics technologies such as BioMech Lab that quantify and improve patient and user outcomes in healthcare, sports/wellness, and industrial sectors.

Featured image: A man wears a device to provide remote therapeutic monitoring, which can be used for in-home physical therapy. Photo: BioMech