The Telehealth Evolution – Then, Now, and Future directions of tele-rehabilitation
by Lauren Rashford, DPT
You may have heard the terms “Telehealth”, “telemedicine”, or “telerehab” bounced around a lot recently. They generally all arrive at the same meaning with “Telehealth” being the umbrella term for a way of communicating or collecting medical information using telecommunications technologies. That’s basically a fancy way of saying your clinician may have the ability to treat and monitor you remotely, without you having to go into a clinic, hospital or other facility.
The Telehealth Evolution
Seems like a fairly new and innovative way of providing care, right? Well, as we discussed in our recent article “Telemedicine: Here to Stay”, you may be surprised to learn that telemedicine has actually been around in various forms for decades, if not centuries! There has been a strong need for the utilization of telehealth for quite some time. Now, key stakeholders in the healthcare industry are seeing the need for expansion among providers. This expansion includes therapies, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Physical therapists are highly engaged throughout your treatment as they typically see their patients several times a week. So the question becomes, how can physical therapists utilize telehealth to continue providing and delivering excellent care?
Ok, I may be slightly biased, but physical, occupational and speech therapists are some of the most creative professionals out there. We are used to treating patients in creative ways as there are usually obstacles related to the nature of the pathologies we see. As a physical therapist myself, I have seen first- hand how difficult it can be for patients with neurologic
impairments, especially, such as people that have suffered from stroke, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis to get to an in-person clinic. This struggle affects their caregivers as well. Many caregivers have to make significant sacrifices to be able to bring their loved one to outpatient therapy for example. It’s easy to see that telehealth can be used for things like a “virtual visit”. But, if we look at it through such a narrow lens, we will fail to use it to its full potential, while also giving up a lot of what’s essential to therapy.
What if we start to see telehealth not as a replacement for these essential encounters, but as a clinical extension into your home? Picture this: you have reached your limit for outpatient therapy several weeks after suffering from a stroke. You have made a lot of progress with your therapist but there is still a lot to be made. Instead of being given a set of exercises to be done unsupervised, your clinician is able to monitor and adjust this treatment plan, check in with you, and continue to stay engaged. You don’t just “drop off” the clinician’s radar once discharged, rather, you stay a part of that healthcare community and continue to receive clinician directed care at home.
Where do we go from here? Will telehealth stay around after COVID-19? In my opinion, Yes! Telehealth is here to stay and will continue to bring a wider, yet more engaging means of providing and delivering care. This is an ever-changing health care system, and Moterum Technologies is excited to be at the forefront of this. Our company will continue advocating and pushing for higher quality of care while helping healthcare systems, providers, and communities fulfill their ultimate goal, which is to provide the best care for their patients.
Board on Health Care Services; Institute of Medicine.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012 Nov 20