Telehealth is becoming an exciting new avenue for providing occupational therapy services in a variety of settings.

So what is telehealth?

As defined by The Center for Connected Health Policy

“Telehealth encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services.”

Telehealth is not a service in and of itself, but is instead a means to provide medical services, like occupational therapy, through different forms of technology.

These include real-time, two-way video calling through computers, smart phones, or tablets, email or text communications, and virtual transmission of recorded video to and from patient/practitioner.

These new means offer OT clinicians increased methods to provide education and intervention for individuals in need of OT services.

Benefits of Telehealth Growing in Occupational Therapy

Telehealth in occupational therapy offers a huge benefit for those in rural areas who might not otherwise have access to OT services.

With telehealth, patients and occupational therapists alike can reduce extremely long travel times and greatly increase the reach of OT.

This benefits the patients as well as the therapists that traditionally drove long distances from home to home.

Teleheath also offers the convenience of staying at home and avoiding the annoyances of traffic, parking, commutes and long waits in waiting rooms.

OT Settings That Can Provide Telehealth

While occupational therapy is often thought of as a hands-on profession – especially in rehab settings – there are many settings that can benefit from using telehealth when necessary.

Some settings that may benefit include:

  • Children and Youth
  • Health Promotion/Health and Wellness
  • Early Intervention
  • Home Health
  • Home Modifications and Aging in Place
  • Mental Health
  • Outpatient Neuro Rehab

telehealth-consultation-occupational-therapy

(Source: Telehealth Opportunities in Occupational Therapy Through the Affordable Care Act, AJOT)

Drawbacks of Telehealth in Occupational Therapy

While telehealth opens many doors for patients that cannot access OT services, there are a few cons to using it as well.

HIPAA

With increased use of technology, more patient information is online and could be compromised. Because of this, clinicians need to be hyper-aware and safeguard any patient information to stay “hip to HIPAA.”

License Portability

Another drawback is currently the lack of OT license portability.

At this time, OTs can only provide telehealth services to patients in states where an OT license is held. Obtaining and maintaining licenses in multiple states is costly and cumbersome, so at this time telehealth in one’s home state is generally the only option.

An Advantage for Hands-On Therapy

And lastly, as I briefly mentioned above, some occupational therapy settings have to be hands-on. In acute rehab, for example, we are often hands-on with ADL retraining, transfer training, balance activities, neuro-re-ed, etc.

In many outpatient settings, such as hand therapy, OTs often need to be with the person to evaluate, perform manual therapy, or fabricate splints.

Because of this, telehealth won’t work in all settings. There will always be patients that will need our in-person services. But for those who will benefit from our education instead of hands-on training, telehealth will provide many new avenues and an increase in services provided.

_______________

For more on what it’s like to be an OT using telehealth, check out this article on a day in the life of a telehealth OT. The post outlines a typical day of an OT providing handwriting interventions for school-aged children.

Have you worked in telehealth or considered trying it out? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

You may also like

2 comments

  • Analiza Fajardo September 15, 2019   Reply →

    Hi, thank you for sharing your work day as an OT working in telehealth. I am a working mom and has been a therapist in geriatrics for 12 yrs and has 2 yrs experience in pediatrics before i went to geriatrics. I would like to go back to pediatrics because i miss it. Will someone hire me now that my pediatric experience was 10 yrs ago?any advice?

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L September 18, 2019   Reply →

      Hi Analiza, I personally don’t work in telehealth but if you’re interested in transitioning into it, you should definitely try to go for it, after doing some continuing ed to brush up on pediatrics. You could also reach out to the telehealth companies to ask for their advice on what they’re looking for and how to get started. If you do an Indeed.com search for “Telehealth Occupational Therapy” you should find some positions. I know the following companies also have telehealth OT positions: Global Teletherapy, ELuma Online Therapy, and E-therapy.com. I hope this helps and best of luck to you!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!