Like many other patients, Joe Burbach just couldn’t get his rehabilitation exercises right.

After visiting an Institute for Athletic Medicine (IAM) clinic for low back pain, Joe would return home confidently with prescribed exercises in hand, only to find out later he had been doing the exercises incorrectly.

“I’d come in for a follow-up appointment and, every time, I’d learn I was doing the exercises wrong,” says Joe.

After a few appointments, Joe, whose professional background includes web design, says he posed a suggestion to his physical therapist, Rick Mewes: “Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a better way of delivering this—like videos that you could just tell me to go look at?’”

Rick explained they had looked into video solutions, but hadn’t found one that met IAM’s needs.

So Rick and Joe continued their conversation and began to collaborate on a possible solution to help patients actually see their prescribed exercises in action.

The result was PTRx, an innovative new tool that enables IAM’s physical therapists to provide patients with videos of their prescribed exercises. Patients can watch the videos on a cell phone, tablet or computer.

Designed with patients and physical therapists at the center

“Patients don’t want a lot of hassle, and they don’t want to have to figure out how to use a brand new tool,” says Joe. “PTRx has videos of their exercises on one page, along with instructions from their physical therapist. They can watch these at any time to help them follow the proper form.”

During their IAM visits, patients who would like to use PTRx are issued a random code documented in Epic. The physical therapist uses PTRx to prescribe specific exercises and their frequency.

The patient then visits the PTRx website, enters his or her patient code and accepts the terms. A page opens with the videos for each of the patient’s exercises, the prescribed frequency and a link to launch illustrations that can be printed (as needed), along with the name of the prescribing physical therapist.

“We wanted to make PTRx so easy to use that they’d be just as fast at locating the exercises digitally,” says Rick.

Reducing recovery time and clinic visits

The new technology helped Kari Wenker, who fractured a bone in her knee—the tibia plateau—while skiing.

“It didn’t require surgery, thankfully, but I needed a lot of physical therapy so that, when I was able to bear weight on my leg, I would be strong and could walk.”

Kari’s visit to an orthopedic clinic was quickly followed by a visit to Rick at the IAM clinic in Edina, who evaluated Kari’s injury and prescribed a number of exercises for her to do at home using PTRx.

Using the online tool, Kari was able to ensure she was doing her exercises correctly, cut her recovery time by four weeks and reduce her in-person clinic visits.

“It was very helpful. I avoided missed work hours and eliminated the need to arrange rides to the clinic, as I was unable to drive due to my injury,” says Kari.

Back on her feet

Thanks in part to PTRx, Kari is now back on her feet and visiting the gym, where she brings her phone and uses PTRx to guide her in her latest set of exercises to strengthen her knee and leg.

“I don’t always remember what I’m supposed to do, so I can just go on my phone, log in and watch the videos,” says Kari.

“If I’m able to do an exercise really well, and I don’t feel like I’m being challenged, Rick can just change the exercises on PTRx without my coming in to the clinic. It’s easy and convenient,” says Kari.

“This is a definite benefit to going to the Institute for Athletic Medicine for physical therapy.”