Telehealth’, what, why and how?
Telehealth is a phrase you may have heard a lot of recently, but what is it? Telehealth is an alternative to regular face-to-face therapy that we are exploring and implementing at MOVEability as a direct result of the Covid19 pandemic to address the increasing challenge that social distancing has had on attending and participating in therapy.
Telehealth may not be the preferred service delivery option for some, but with heavy restrictions on our movements, telehealth may be the only option to access therapy whilst also minimising the risk of spread of the Covid19 virus and protecting our children, the vulnerable and the wider community.
What is ‘telehealth’?
Telehealth is a term that refers to the delivery of health care services and support using information and communications technologies. It is about transmitting voice, data, images and information rather than moving care recipients, health professionals or educators. A telehealth service can be conducted over videoconferencing, phone calls, emails and text or other direct messages.
The obvious differences between regular therapy sessions and telehealth are, your child’s therapist is not physically in the room with you, and you will be at home. From the list below, you will see that much of the rest of the session is essentially the same. In a telehealth session your child’s therapist will:
- Ask questions about your child’s progress and any concerns you would like to discuss
- Assess your child by watching your child move and complete the activity prescribed. If your therapist needs to see something specific, they will give you instructions on how to do it with your child.
- Use their clinical reasoning skills to problem solve your child’s challenges, and provide recommendations on how to improve their skills
- Give constant feedback on your child’s performance
- Engage your child in the therapy activities providing encouragement and motivation
- Give you and your child recommendations on things they can continue with at home between sessions
- Follow up with other people involved in your child’s care as relevant
How and why can telehealth be beneficial?
- Telehealth allows for maximum levels of social distancing:
Telehealth allows you to continue therapy in all situations whether it is social distancing to prevent the spread of illness or whether you live remotely. This option can be particularly relevant for people who are immunocompromised or have complex chronic illnesses. Therapy can continue with telehealth even in a complete societal shut-down as a result of a pandemic.
- You will learn how to help your own child:
In regular face-to-face sessions, generally your child is working directly with the therapist, and thus it is the therapist who is the one ‘doing’ the therapy. When you actually ‘do’ the therapy and when you are the person supporting the child using your hands, you can feel the exercise and the child’s response to your support giving a much more in-depth understanding of the task and of your child’s ability. With this understanding you will begin to appreciate the adaptions and subsequent improvements your child is making. In telehealth provision, the therapist will become your coach and provide feedback and advice which ultimately results in your gain of skills at helping your own child. Understanding how to help your own child is incredibly empowering and will give you confidence to advocate for your child moving forward.
- Your child’s toys and your child’s environment:
Completing a therapy session using your child’s things in their environment means that you learn how to incorporate therapy advice into your real day-to-day life. In this situation you are much more likely to be able to replicate the activity later and practice again outside of your telehealth session, and of course with increased practice means increased chance of success.
- No travel is required:
The logistics of attending an appointment do not apply to telehealth. No packing of snacks or bags, and no transitions moving between locations are required. There is no travel time and there are no travel costs.
- If delivered well, the outcomes of telehealth sessions can be just as good, or sometimes better, than your regular sessions:
Over time if you have practiced the therapy principals as guided by your therapist in your own home, using your own toys and equipment, you will be able to incorporate these skills incidentally in your day-to-day life. If this is the case, you will be much more likely to have success an overall impact on functional skills compared to coming to therapy once a week for example. Furthermore, you may also be able to get to a point where you can teach these skills to other family members and or relevant people in your child’s life to further expand on the opportunities to practice these skills.
- Siblings have entertainment options:
Siblings can either be incorporated into your child’s therapy session for greater family participation, or they can be occupied by playing with their own toys, by going outside, or watching TV (in another room). The point is, there are a greater number of options of entertainment for the sibling.
- Screen-time might motivate your child:
Most children love screens, so therapy through a screen may be motivating for some.
- Joint therapy sessions and /or inviting third parties are possible:
As long as people are logged in at the same time, multiple parties can be involved in telehealth sessions no matter where they are in the world, this includes other therapists, family members, teachers or whoever this is relevant to.
The current public health crisis, Covid19, sweeping across Australia and the world alike requires that we maintain social distancing. These measures are in place for an unknown duration of time. Telehealth is a fantastic resource available to ensure that your child does not miss out on therapy during this time. Telehealth can be used as an interim measure or a long option if appropriate and successful for families.
If you are interested in switching over to telehealth services now, please don’t hesitate to contact MOVEability or speak to your child’s therapist.