COVID-19 brought plenty of changes to our lives in 2020, including the way we deliver physiotherapy at PhysioTec. Telehealth allowed our physiotherapists to continue providing tailored treatments and essential support during the lockdown period, via online video consultations. If you are new to Telehealth and would like to learn more, click here.
The uptake of TeleHealth was quick, with many people appreciating the flexibility and convenience of online healthcare. This is why we believe that, at PhysioTec, Telehealth has a continuing role to play in the future of physiotherapy. Here are some examples of how Telehealth benefited our patients during and outside this unusual period.
*Respecting patients’ privacy, names of the cases below are not real.
John*, a 68-year-old man living in rural Queensland, had been suffering from pain in the side of his hip for a number of years. The distance from a physiotherapist, particularly someone experienced with more persistent hip pain, made it difficult for him to get the help he really needed. His pain was gradually worsening over time.
When the COVID restrictions were introduced, John wasn’t able to continue seeing his local therapist and his hip pain worsened, keeping him awake at night. John, desperate for a solution to his pain, did some research on the Internet and came across a clinic in Brisbane (Physiotec) with physiotherapists who specialise in the management of hip pain. In the past, John would never have considered accessing help in Brisbane due to the long drive, but this new Telehealth opportunity allowed him to access someone with expertise in his problem area, without having to leave his own home.
After his initial Telehealth session, John was diagnosed with gluteal tendinopathy and provided with a treatment plan, an exercise program and access to “PhysiApp”, an online platform where he was able to view his prescribed exercise videos. This allowed him to feel confident in what he needed to do and get on with a targeted and effective rehabilitation program.
Mary*, a 46-year-old full time office worker, had intermittent flare-ups of buttock pain due to a history of proximal hamstring tendinopathy. Mary enjoys long distance running in her spare time, and her goal was to improve her running distance, without aggravating her buttock pain.
Mary decided to give Telehealth a try as she had a very busy schedule – this way she could get professional advice without leaving her house or sitting in traffic. Through Telehealth, Mary was able to perform physical tests under the physiotherapist’s instructions; and her physio was able to identify areas of improvement for Mary. Mary was provided with tailored strengthening exercises and she noticed improvements after two TeleHealth sessions. Mary then only needed monthly TeleHealth checkups to progress her program and ensure she was achieving her goals. In between Mary’s monthly reviews, she keeps in contact with her physio via “PhysiApp” regarding her exercise progress. Telehealth allowed Mary to actively manage her condition while pursuing her running goals and minimising time spent away from home or work.
Vanessa, a 29-year-old new mum experienced sharp, sudden lower back pain that was exacerbated with all movements except lying down. Vanessa needed the care of a physio but found it difficult to leave the house with a 3-month-old baby. With the back pain, she would have struggled to drive and move the baby in and out of the car. Vanessa decided to use Telehealth so she could easily and conveniently access physiotherapy from home.
During her TeleHealth consult, Vanessa was taken through an interview and physiotherapist-instructed self-assessments. Vanessa’s lower back pain was confirmed to be musculoskeletal in nature. She was provided with education and advice on how to best manage her pain at home. Gentle exercises were prescribed to help reduce Vanessa’s muscle spasm and optimise her movements. Vanessa’s partner expressed interest in helping her recovery. During the following Telehealth session, the physiotherapist was able to instruct on massage techniques and give real-time feedback.
These days, Vanessa alternates hands-on face to face treatments and Telehealth consults as she thinks they make a good combination for her pain management. Her exercise program has been progressed and the higher level exercises are easily checked via Telehealth, with the live video of Vanessa and her physio side-by-side providing excellent visual feedback.
What does the existing evidence tell us about Telehealth?
Modified physical examination, in the case of Telehealth, consists of virtual self-assessment. For hip-related conditions, research evidence has found that this form of modified examination is not inferior to the traditional in-clinic examination (Owusu-Akyaw, Evanson, Cook, Reiman, & Mather, 2019). The same result was seen in diagnosing chronic conditions in other areas, such as the lower back, knee and shoulder (Cottrell, et al., 2018). One unique benefit of Telehealth is that it allows the physiotherapist to conduct a real-time assessment within the home or work environment, where problems may be occurring. This helps in the development of very specific and meaningful strategies for each individual’s unique situation.
There is also an increasing body of research showing the effectiveness of Telehealth in the treatment of a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. One such study by Cottrell, Galea, O’Leary, Hill, & Russell (2017) showed that the treatment outcome in pain and physical function is comparable to the outcomes of conventional in-clinic treatments. Even in patients who underwent surgery like total hip replacement, evidence showed a high level of patient satisfaction with Telehealth, without compromising rehabilitation results (Nelson, Bourke, Crossley, & Russell, 2020).
Telehealth: Convenient online healthcare, from anywhere
Telehealth greatly improves access to physiotherapy services and expert advice. It allows clients who live in rural or regional areas, or those with mobility issues or disabilities, to receive quality care without the need for long commutes over vast distances. TeleHealth is also ideal for those who are time-poor, who have inflexible schedules or who are unable to travel due to their pain or disability.
Whether you have just developed a problem or you require ongoing support in managing an ongoing health condition, Telehealth could be a useful and convenient way of accessing physiotherapy.
If you are interested in giving Telehealth a go, call us on 3842 4284 for more information. We are looking forward to seeing you online!
Cottrell, M. A., Galea, O. A., O’Leary, S. P., Hill, A. J., & Russell, T. G. (2017). Real-time telerehabilitation for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions is effective and comparable to standard practice: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Rehabilitation, 625-638.
Cottrell, M. A., O’Leary, S. P., Swete-Kelly, P., Elwell, B., Hess, S., Litchfield, M.-A., . . . Russell, T. G. (2018). Agreement between telehealth and in-person assessment of patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions presenting to an advanced-practice physiotherapy screening clinic. Musculoskeletal Science and Practice, 99-105.
Nelson, M., Bourke, M., Crossley, K., & Russell, T. (2020). Telerehabilitation is non-inferior to usual care following total hip replacement — a randomized controlled non-inferiority trial. Physiotherapy, 19-27.
Owusu-Akyaw, K. A., Evanson, R. J., Cook, C. E., Reiman, M., & Mather, R. C. (2019). Concurrent validity of a patient self- administered examination and a clinical examination for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome. BMJ Open Sp Ex Med.