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Benefits of Telehealth Occupational Therapy

What is Telehealth Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy itself focuses on helping indivudals develop, recover, or maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. This can include activities such as self-care, work, education, and leisure.

Telehealth occupational therapy refers to the delivery of occupational therapy services remotely through digital communication technologies, allowing therapists to extend these services to participants who may face challenges accessing in-person care due to geographical constraints, physical limitations, or other barriers. Telehealth occupational therapy also allows for increased options in providers for participants, and for therapists to provide services at a faster rate as travel times and geographical locations are no longer constraining factors.

The key components of Telehealth occupational therapy include assessment, treatment planning, intervention, education, and ongoing monitoring of clients.

What is Involved in Telehealth Occupational Therapy?

  • Telehealth occupational therapy primarily relies on video conferencing platforms such as Google Meets, Zoom, Teams Meeting. Therapists and participants interact in real-time, allowing for face-to-face communication and observation of activities. In addition, therapists may use audio calls to communicate with participants, especially in situations where video conferencing may not be feasible.

  • Therapists are able to conduct assessments including Functional Capacity Assessments through video observation, reviewing client reports, and discussing medical history. Some assessments may involve observing the client performing specific tasks or activities related to daily living.

  • From these assessments, therapists develop individualised treatment plans. These plans outline therapeutic goals, interventions, and strategies to address the client’s specific needs. The therapist and participant will then work together to set realistic and achievable goals for the therapy sessions.

  • In each therapy session, the therapist will guide the client through exercises and activities designed to improve motor skills, cognitive function, and independence in daily tasks. The therapist will also teach adaptive strategies to help clients overcome challenges related to physical or cognitive impairments.

  • Further, in cases involving pediatric or dependent clients, therapists may educate and involve caregivers in implementing therapeutic activities at home. The therapist will also provide education on relevant topics, such as understanding the impact of a condition, using assistive devices, and implementing strategies to enhance daily functioning

  • Therapists will regularly monitor client progress by observing performance during virtual sessions, reviewing self-reports, and assessing changes in functional abilities. Therapists will then provide feedback on clients’ performance and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan to ensure ongoing effectiveness.

Unique Benefits of Telehealth Occupational Therapy:

Pediatric OT –

Pediatric Telehealth occupational therapy offers a range of benefits for both children and their families, especially in circumstances where in-person therapy may be challenging or inaccessible. These benefits include:

  • Enhanced Engagement with Technology – Pediatric telehealth sessions often incorporate interactive online platforms, gaming apps, and virtual reality to make therapy sessions more engaging and enjoyable for children.

 

  • Development of Independence – Telehealth sessions also incorporate in-home activities, where therapists can guide children through activities in their own living spaces. Thus promoting the development of skills that directly translate to independence within the home environment.

 

  • Increased Involvement of Family members and Support Persons – Family members and support persons can actively participate in therapy sessions, learning and assisting with therapeutic exercises, and ultimately learning how to integrate the therapeutic exercise into daily routines. This fosters a collaborative approach to care, empowering family members and support persons to play a more active role and thus ensures ongoing support beyond the scheduled sessions.

Mental Health OT

Telehealth mental health occupational therapy provides numerous benefits for participants facing mental health challenges. By leveraging digital communication technologies, mental health occupational therapists can deliver effective interventions and support to clients in the comfort of their own homes. Here are some key benefits of Telehealth mental health occupational therapy:

  • Innovative Technological Interventions Telehealth enables therapists to use digital tools, online resources, and interactive platforms to enhance the effectiveness and engagement of therapeutic interventions.
  • Continuity of Care – Even in situations where in-person sessions may be challenging, Telehealth ensures continuity of care, providing consistent mental health support over time.
  • Increased Comfort and Reduced Anxiety for Clients – For participants with social anxiety or other conditions that make in-person interactions challenging, telehealth sessions in the comfort of their own home provides a less intimidating setting. This also reduces potential anxiety associated with traveling or having someone unfamiliar entering the home.
  • Reduced Stigma – Telehealth provides a confidential and private space for therapy, reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health support.

 

OT for Participants with Physical Disabilities:

Telehealth occupational therapy for participants with physical disabilities offers a range of benefits that contribute to their overall well-being, independence, and quality of life. The benefits include:

  • Assistive Technology Integration – Telehealth enables therapists to incorporate assistive technology, such as video-guided exercises and adaptive tools, to enhance therapeutic interventions and support the participant’s independence.
  • Enhanced Motivation –  The use of virtual platforms, interactive tools, and gaming applications in Telehealth can make therapy sessions more engaging and enjoyable, enhancing participant motivation.
  • Health and Safety – Telehealth minimises the risk of exposure to infections, a significant concern for participants with physical disabilities who may have compromised immune systems.

 

  • Continuity of CareTelehealth ensures continuity of care, allowing participants to receive consistent therapy services even during challenging circumstances, such as inclement weather or unexpected events.

References:

Cason, J. (2012, March 1). Telehealth Opportunities in Occupational Therapy Through the Affordable Care Act. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(2), 131-136. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.662001

Daly, K., Isdell, E., Moynihan, L., O’Callaghan, K., O’Leary, S., Pepper, A., & Pennisi, Y. (2022, June 14). An exploration of service users’ experience of telehealth occupational therapy interventions in adult mental health services, Ireland, during COVID-19. Irish Journal of Occupational Therapy, 50(2), 66-72. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJOT-02-2022-0007/full/html#sec019

Figueiredo, M. (2019). The use of telehealth in pediatric occupational therapy. Annals of Medicine, 51(1), 66. https://doi.org/10.1080/07853890.2018.1561616

Sarsak, H. I. (2020, April 16). Telerehabilitation services: A successful paradigm for occupational therapy clinical services? International Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Journal, 5(2), 93-98. 10.15406/ipmrj.2020.05.00237

Sprianu, C., Krpalek, D., Kugel, J. D., Bains, G., & Gharibvand, L. (2022, March). COVID-19 and Telehealth Use Among Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech-Language Pathology Practitioners in the United States. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, 20(2), Article 20. 10.46743/1540-580X/2022.2129

Worboys, T., Brassington, M., Ward, E. .., & Cornwell, P. L. (2018). Delivering occupational therapy hand assessment and treatment sessions via telehealth. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 24(3), 185-192. https://doi.org/10.1177/1357633X17691861

Ying, K. (n.d.). Telehealth: Studies say it’s both beneficial and effective. Constant Therapy Health. Retrieved January 25, 2024, from https://constanttherapyhealth.com/brainwire/telehealth-studies-say-its-both-beneficial-and-effective/

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