The switch to telehealth showed how virtual physical therapy services are possible, but also exposed some technical issues for people living in rural areas.
As a pediatric physical therapist in Missouri, Jessica Luechtefeld was used to a hands-on coaching approach when meeting with her patients at their preschools, in their homes, or at the Child’s Play Therapy clinic.
But the COVID-19 pandemic forced physical therapists to cancel in-person sessions and quickly transition to telehealth appointments to continue providing essential care.
“When meeting with patients virtually, I would demonstrate to the parents or caregivers what I wanted them to do to coach their child through the exercises, and we would try to come up with fun games to keep the child engaged,” Luechtefeld says.
While caregiver engagement was reported as the biggest facilitator to successful telehealth therapy sessions, access to reliable WiFi was a common challenge, particularly for rural families.
“The switch happened so suddenly that many pediatric physical therapists had no training, experience, or support with telehealth, but we all desperately wanted to continue providing these much-needed services to our patients as they are developing so early on in their lives,” Hall says.
“We see a wide variety of patients. While some kids might be recovering from a sports injury, other children might be born with early onset conditions, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or muscular dystrophy.”
Luechtefeld saw firsthand the challenges that arise when physical therapists are so heavily reliant on technology, as broadband internet can be limited in rural areas and WiFi can be spotty at times.
Read the full article about telehealth PT and the digital divide by Brian Consiglio at Futurity.
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