PT Classroom - Industrial Rehabilitation Technology ׀ by Jim Mecham, MSIE, OTR/L, CPE


Jim Mecham, MSIE, OTR/L, CPE is the continuing education director and software developer for OccuPro. OccuPro has provided private practices with industrial rehab software and continuing education for 10 years. Jim has helped thousands of private practice physical therapy clinics implement high level return-to-work industrial rehab programs. OccuPro’s web based software application is a full return to work testing system and all of OccuPro’s courses can be taken Live in Person or through highly interactive Live Webcast technology. For more information feel free to visit, contact OccuPro at 866-470-4440, or e-mail Jim at

Industrial Rehabilitation Technology

Imagine that Return to Work Technologies, Inc. has developed a new scanning system to determine an injured workers return to work/stay at work function. The premise of this new technology is similar to the scanners at airports in which a human walks into a scanner, raises their hands above their head and the scanner detects a malicious object. In the same manner, an injured employee steps into the scanner and it determines if this injured employee is able to return/stay at work or stay at work.

There are many new technologies at the disposal of private practice physical therapists which can help to expedite the return to work process, provide improved return to work documentation, and online learning opportunities at the tips of your fingers.

Return-to-Work/Stay-at Work Software (RTW/SAW)
There are a number of options on the open market in regards to return-to-work software. These options include basic Functional Capacity Evaluation software systems up to comprehensive systems that outline a worker’s return to work progress throughout the rehabilitation process.
Various RTW/SAW software systems range from computer, server, and web based applications and all of have their pros and cons. Traditional computer based applications offer low level scalability to grow a RTW/SAW program at a reasonable cost, have tedious upgrade options, and may be difficult to test more than one person at a time. Server based systems allow for improved scalability but may require various user license based on the number of computers a company wants to install the system on.

Web based RTW/SAW systems offer lower overhead for the companies that offer these applications. Customers of these systems have an easy time implementing at multiple locations and on multiple computers since they only need to hook up to the internet, therefore scalability is optimal for private practices. They also tend to be the easiest applications for software companies to update to the latest evidence based testing. The speed of internet connections now allows for fast navigation with a time of 2 seconds or less when navigating from page to page on some of the latest applications.

Functional Capacity Evaluation versus full return to work system
The traditional approach to clinic based industrial rehabilitation included performing Functional Capacity Evaluations and end of treatment work hardening. Many companies offering software for these services are now offering software systems that test function throughout the entire rehabilitation process. Clinics that specialize in the treatment and rehabilitation of the injured worker have realized that Functional Capacity Evaluations are no more profitable than treating patients during the same 4 to 5 hours it takes to perform that FCE. Work Hardening/conditioning programs continue to provide good revenue/profit for clinics that have high quality programs. Private practices have also realized that if you test return-to-work function during the outpatient rehab process you can easily increase patient referrals into your hardening/conditioning programs.

If you are a private physical therapy practice that is only documenting range of motion and muscle strength on your worker’s compensation patients you are behind the times. Physicians, case managers, insurance companies, claims adjustors, and employers are starting to expect that your documentation during outpatient rehabilitation outlines the worker’s compensation patient’s return to work function.

The newer Return-to-Work software systems perform ongoing return to work functional testing throughout the outpatient process. The improved technology of various software systems will allow you to perform a functional progress note in 15 to 30 minutes and show the return-to-work functional improvement a client makes from initial evaluation or from a previous note. This functional progress is specific to their return to work function and may outline the percentage of full duty work the client is able to perform while showing an increase in this full duty percentage over time. (See Figure1 and Figure 2)


Figure 1



Figure 2


Industrial Rehab RTW/SAW Continuing Education
There is a major challenge within the specialty of RTW/SAW programming. Our medical schools do not teach us the difference between getting a patient back to function versus getting an injured worker back to function. The primary way physical therapists learn to implement these programs is through continuing education.

Functional Capacity Evaluation, Work Hardening, Post Offer Employment Testing, On-Site Rehabilitation, Office/Industrial/Healthcare Ergonomic and RTW/SAW continuing education courses are now being offered as Live Webcast courses. Physical Therapists from around the globe can now take high level continuing education courses from the comfort of their own computer. Courses range from basic webinars to fully interactive live webcast courses in which the attendees online can interact with the course instructor, with each other, as well as with attendees sitting in the course. New technology allows the attendees to see the entire power point presentation and everything the instructor writes on the white board right on their computer. High definition steaming video of the course instructor and various stations around the room allows for live webcast attendees to see all hands on testing procedures performed by the instructor and in room attendees.

This live webcast technology has allowed full medical practices to perform a full array of return-to-work continuing education from the comfort of their own practice. This technology provides the live webcast participant with the exact same experience as a participant sitting in the room with the instructor. To see this technology in action feel free to type in the following internet link into your browsers address bar.

Technology within industrial rehab, functional capacity evaluations, RTW/SAW and continuing education is evolving at a fast pace! Private practice owners are looking to implement industrial programming at a fraction of the cost which can provide a quicker return on investment. Low overhead, easy to implement web based industrial rehab software applications with great scalability will help a private practice grow these profitable programs quicker. Software and continuing education technology helps private practices implement a full menu of workers compensation services including functional testing throughout the rehabilitation process to help grow your worker’s compensation/industrial rehab return-to-work specialty practice.
Last revised: February 7, 2013
By Jim Mecham, MSIE, OTR/L, CPE

Terms & Conditions

Please review our terms and conditions carefully before utilization of the Site. The information on this Site is for informational purposes only and should in no way replace a conventional visit to an actual live physical therapist or other healthcare professional. It is recommended that you seek professional and medical advise from your physical therapist or physician prior to any form of self treatment.

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