In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a push for the provision of online telehealth physiotherapy services. Mediphysio has answered the call and has developed a strategy to provide online physiotherapy to its existing patients.
Is online telehealth any good? How does it work?
A virtual consultation can be just as beneficial as face to face. Our physiotherapists assess a patients presenting concerns via two main types of assessment:
- Involves asking questions relevant to diagnosing the cause of their issue
- The other is a physical examination which may involve watching them perform certain movements or tasks. Both techniques can be done via telehealth.
- Much of the information we gain from asking patients questions gives us a very good understanding of what is contributing to their issue.
- From there, we can formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Much of what physiotherapists provide in the way of treatment is advice and education, as well as a targeted rehabilitation/management program. This converts very well to an online setting.
Hands-on or manual treatment with the physio is obviously not available, however there are many ways our physiotherapists can teach patients to self-treat to help provide symptom relief, as we always do during our face to face consultations.
What platform do we use?
We use a platform called Zoom to provide virtual consultations. It is an encrypted, secure platform.
We can share images with the patient on their computer screen. There’s a nice ‘whiteboard’ feature where you can add text or draw and you can have multiple users. Zoom allows us to send an invite to patients which includes a meeting ID and link for people to join the ‘meeting.
An evolving profession
Most people’s traditional view of Physiotherapy is that it involves “hands on” treatment. In reality, this is only a small portion of what Physios do to assist with injury management.
Educating the patient about their condition, identifying contributing factors from their lifestyle, as well as instigating a structured and tailored exercise program, are some of the most important things Physiotherapists do.
Over the last 5 to 10 years, Physiotherapy has moved away from a reliance on complex machines and manual techniques, and towards rehabilitation programs carried out under guidance. This puts the patient in much more control of their own recovery. This enhances their self efficacy and helps them self manage their condition. Research has shown that outcomes can, in fact, be better through online consultation, due to the empowering nature of the system.
So what do we do in a Telehealth consult?
The wonders of modern technology open up a whole world of possibility. Patients can receive unlimited follow up consultations. They can attach a photo or video of themselves doing the exercise/s, or even organise for us to check them via your webcam in real time!
We don’t just sit there! We’re active in demonstrating our tests and exercises. We do 1 on 1 rehab sessions and take our patients through rehab circuits. Many people are stuck, in-active within their homes at the moment. We are trying to be the solution to scratch that itch to exercise as its more important now than ever.
We can and will refer on if needed
Naturally, if we feel patients have an injury that requires “hands on” Physiotherapy, we will let them know and also refer on, whether that be to a specialist, or back to their GP for review or for appropriate scans etc.
Evidence for telehealth online physiotherapy
There are over 50 clinical trials supporting the effectiveness of telehealth online physiotherapy. The diagnostic accuracy of upper and lower limb injuries has been shown to be reliable (1). One study has shown over 43% would prefer home telehealth over travelling to appointments after experiencing it (2). A systematic review of telehealth videoconferencing for physical therapy in people with musculoskeletal conditions noted a moderate quality of intervention and a positive impact on health outcomes and satisfaction (3).
1:The diagnostic accuracy of telerehabilitation for non articular lower-limb musculoskeletal disorders 2014, JOSPT Kate O’Sullivan 2. Patients are willing to use telehealth for the multidisciplinary management of chronic musculoskeletal conditions: A cross-sectional survey Physical Therapy, 2014 Shaun O’Leary, Michael Randall 3.Telehealth and patient satisfaction: a systematic review and narrative analysis BMJ, Clemons Kruse