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Dr. Celeste Compton of Virtual Care at Origin: “I need to know about more of their body and their lifestyle habits than they think”

I am excited to see how VR can play a role in diversifying our patients care experience and potentially improving our patients compliance with a home exercise program, a factor that really impacts our patient’s success with physical therapy. One of the consequences of the pandemic is the dramatic growth of Telehealth and Telemedicine. But how […]

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I am excited to see how VR can play a role in diversifying our patients care experience and potentially improving our patients compliance with a home exercise program, a factor that really impacts our patient’s success with physical therapy.


One of the consequences of the pandemic is the dramatic growth of Telehealth and Telemedicine. But how can doctors and providers best care for their patients when they are not physically in front of them? What do doctors wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office? How can Telehealth approximate and even improve upon the healthcare that traditional doctors’ visits can provide?

In this interview series, called “Telehealth Best Practices; How To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You” we are talking to successful Doctors, Dentists, Psychotherapists, Counselors, and other medical and wellness professionals who share lessons and stories from their experience about the best practices in Telehealth. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Celestine Compton.

Celestine Compton, PT, DPT is a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in women’s health. Dr. Compton is both Herman & Wallace and APTA trained in the areas of pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction, myofascial mobilization, and pregnancy and postnatal care. She has acted as a consultant and content developer for various websites and blogs related to women’s health and continues to enjoy writing on the subject. Dr. Compton began exploring her passion for women’s healthcare and developing her specialization in women’s health physical therapy following her experience in the Women’s March of 2017.

Origin is a progressive women’s health company offering physical therapy for the over 40M women per year experiencing incredibly common but overlooked health issues specific to the female body and pelvic floor. Just over one year ago, Origin launched virtual care at the onset of the pandemic, safely and effectively offering one-on-one physical therapy sessions for thousands of women in their homes. Their first year led to 500% growth in visits, with over 50% of patients using telehealth.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I graduated with an English and photography degree at the height of the last recession. So I considered and attempted a variety of career paths before deciding to return to school for a doctorate in physical therapy. I knew almost nothing about physical therapy and I had definitely never heard of a women’s health physical therapy specialization before enrolling. But once I found out about this area of expertise, I really felt compelled to incorporate this into my practice.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I think that the shift to virtual care as a physical therapist during COVID was a very interesting experience. Prior to that point, I just never imagined a world where I could work from home as a physical therapist. That seemed like a life reserved for tech types and artists. Now having days where my commute is from the bedroom to the office, is just so surreal, especially in LA where my commute used to take up a huge chunk of my day.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Wherever you go, there you are.” I’ve moved a lot in my life and it’s just a nice reminder that no matter where I am, who I am and what I care about does not change.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I know it’s cliche, but my partner and I have been together for over a decade and he is a really big part of how I got here today. He’s seen all of my career shifts and cross-country moves and hairstyle changes, and he’s just always trusted and supported my decisions. And I just know that if and when I decide to entirely change things up again, he’ll be completely on board and there to support me through it.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how doctors treat their patients. Many doctors have started treating their patients remotely. Telehealth can of course be very different than working with a patient that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity because it allows more people access to medical professionals, but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a patient in front of you?

Well, when a patient is in front of me I have a clear unobstructed view of their body, I also have access to my sense of smell and touch, senses that you just can’t use remotely. Additionally, patients who are in my office are rarely distracted by anything else. I have their full attention and they have mine for our entire session.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a patient is not in the same space as the doctor?

When a patient is not in the same space as me, I can no longer put my hands directly on them, which is a disadvantage when making an assessment. In a virtual setting, I am much more reliant on my ability to see and listen to my patients. So what tends to present the greatest challenge, in reality, is poor technology or a faulty connection that limits my ability to use and trust my remaining senses. Also, I find that distractions can easily draw my patients’ attention away from our sessions when we are communicating via a screen, rather than in person.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You ? (Please share a story or example for each.)

As a healthcare provider, I found that I can address these challenges by just being direct with patients, asking them if they can move to a room with better lighting or that is quieter with less background noise or distractions.

5 things I need to know to best care for my patients when not in front of me:

1) I need to know if my patient has gone in person to any other medical professionals about their issue before seeing me virtually- this can help me to feel more confident when ruling out red flags. For example. a DVT can sometimes feel a lot like a lower leg cramp, but if their PCP or urgent care has already been able to rule out that diagnosis, then I can be more confident that our session will be productive and that this patient is in the right place

2) I need to know if they have worked with a physical therapist before- often people will have a preconceived notion regarding what physical therapy should look and feel like based on past experiences. If I can understand what my patients value in physical therapy, then I can do a better job of explaining to that patient how we will use the virtual setting to meet their needs and expectations

3) I need to know if physical therapy has ever worked for them before- even if it was for a very different condition. If physical therapy has been successful, I immediately want to know what parts of their treatment that the patient felt made the biggest difference. If they feel that manual therapy was the biggest help, then they may not respond well to a virtual setting where manual therapy is not able to happen

4) I need to know if they have done a virtual healthcare session before- if they have, then our session will likely not be the first time they have used a computer, headphones, or virtual meeting platform before and I can commit more time in our session to caring for the patient rather than guiding them through how to comfortably navigate a virtual session

5) I need to know about more of their body and their lifestyle habits than they think. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll have a patient come to me with complaints of low back pain and will be confused when I ask them a slew of questions relating to their work demands, their GI tract history, their sleep, etc. I need to make sure that when I’m treating a patient the source of their pain is musculoskeletal and these types of questions help me to rule out other potential causes.

Can you share a few ways that Telehealth can create opportunities or benefits that traditional in-office visits cannot provide? Can you please share a story or give an example?

In reality, our in-person visits are limited by the office. I can’t see how my patients sit at work because their desk setup is not available to me. I can’t see how they ride their bicycle over long distances because their bike is at home. I can’t see how they nurse their infant because they do that in a specific chair in their nursery. With telehealth, suddenly I can actually see my patient in each of these situations and I can make recommendations in real time to improve their function and movement and decrease pain.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help facilitate Telehealth. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

I am excited by all the tools that have been developed to help facilitate telehealth sessions. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to try out any of these tools. So I can’t speak to this yet.

If you could design the perfect Telehealth feature or system to help your patients, what would it be?

I would love to see a telehealth platform that will follow joints and limbs throughout a movement so I can clearly and quickly see discrepancies or deficits that may be contributing to their condition.

Are there things that you wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office?

I wish all patients understood that your physical therapist is not there to “fix you,” they are there to help you fix yourself. When you have a telehealth session with a physical therapist, this fact becomes just a little more obvious since you don’t get to be a passive participant in the session. During a virtual session, you are as involved and active as your physical therapist from start to finish and I believe that that level of involvement in your own plan of care from day one, produces the best results long term.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring people together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

I am excited to see how VR can play a role in diversifying our patients care experience and potentially improving our patients compliance with a home exercise program, a factor that really impacts our patient’s success with physical therapy.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

Well, I always worry about automation in any career. I believe that physical therapists offer a service that requires critical thinking, creativity and empathy, so I don’t think that we will be easily replaced by a computer system, but I don’t doubt that, as technological advances, someone will certainly try. I imagine all health care professionals may have to defend their role in a patient’s care plan in the future.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that my knowledge of the human body should be common knowledge. I think if we gave people more useful and relevant knowledge of their bodies, then they might feel more empowered to make smart and healthy decisions in their own lives. I often think of how useless my high school health class was and I feel like physical therapists and many other medical providers have the ability to change that so that the next generation of patients can have a different and hopefully more positive experience with their bodies and with the healthcare system overall.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow Origin! @theoriginway

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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