Telehealth is not new but with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic upon us all, managing health and rehabilitation needs has become more complex as we learn to live with changing restrictions. Rehab Jigsaw Occupational Therapists are continuing to adapt their services to be responsive as well as compliant with local restrictions, to continue to support our clients and our end service users. We are thinking “virtual first” wherever possible.
So, what is “telehealth”? Telehealth is an electronic exchange of health information – think of your personal devices that may measure steps taken, heart rate – this is telehealth. This can be used comprehensively in homes and care settings to alert users to undertake a certain action such as taking medications or, for safety falls monitors. In terms of delivering Occupational Therapy services, we can use telehealth and virtual tools to:
- Deliver assessments and treatments as an alternative to face to face sessions with clients in their home or workplace using remote platforms such as Zoom.
- Observe clients and make recommendations in real time.
- Provide ongoing support to clients whilst reducing risk and costs.
- Liaise with other relevant professionals and involved others (other health care providers, family members, employers, solicitors)
- Provide training packages.
- Provide professional support to team members and other Occupational Therapists with professional supervision.
The benefits of service provision using telehealth include:
- Being able to provide timely services.
- Reducing potential costs as travel is not required.
- Being able to provide services regardless of geography/location.
- Offering specialist support where it may not be accessible in more remote locations.
However, we have found that there are also some disadvantages and as such, we assess each case for appropriateness of using telehealth on a case by case basis considering the options and risks with the clients and service users. These include:
- A service user may not have access to appropriate technology and may not have another person to support them in the use.
- The service user may not have good internet connectivity.
- Careful observation is required during assessment and another person can be helpful to hold devices to allow the Occupational Therapist to observe functional abilities in activities of daily living, such as mobilising or transferring.
- Observing environmental barriers can be challenging for the Occupational Therapist to see remotely and it can be difficult to gain accurate measurements of either the person or of their environment.
- It can be difficult for service users with sensory or cognitive impairments, such as vision, auditory impairments or issues with attention.
- The assessor cannot “see” the whole person and paying attention to non-verbal communication is much more challenging.
Telephonic service provision can be helpful for some service users but therapeutic relationships are better established when those involved can “meet”.
Any referrals to Rehab Jigsaw at this time will be considered in terms of “virtual-first”. We have a robust clinical risk assessment in place that is undertaken with every service user to identify risks and establish the best course of action for that individual. Where clinical needs indicate that a face to face assessment/intervention is required, we follow clear processes and use appropriate PPE and safety measures.
If a virtual appointment is deemed appropriate, we have secure systems to protect data and follow professional guidance in this regard. We will obtain consent and explain to service users ahead of appointments what to expect and how to prepare for the appointment. We will discuss what to do if technology proves challenging!
Occupational Therapists are uniquely placed health care professionals with core skills of task analysis, or functional assessment. Occupational Therapists provide holistic assessments to identify barriers to independent living and vocational tasks – we look at physical, psychological, social and environmental issues and identify strategies to assist people to become more independent.
If you are would like to discuss our services with us, please contact us. We would be happy to talk through how Rehab Jigsaw can help you.
Rehab Jigsaw Ltd was established by Occupational Therapists and is managed by Occupational Therapists. We understand your needs and have a team of experienced, skilled and professional Occupational Therapists to offer services across the UK. We are more than happy to discuss your specific needs – contact us for further details.