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Telemedicine & Telehealth: For Allied Health Professionals, Too

Faith Lane

April 20, 2022

With more and more people using telehealth applications since the pandemic, one education expert asked how to expand training to include Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists

According to a recent study, one in five adults polled about health care during the coronavirus pandemic said that they or someone in their household delayed receiving medical care or were unable to get care, due to office closures or shutdowns.

Although the pollsters focused questions about doctor or dental appointments, providers across the board experienced disruption in their specialty areas, including Peggy Stein, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, an Occupational Therapist in Oregon.

Occupational therapy, or OT, focuses on how people perform activities that are most important to their daily lives, so for people who need it, missing out affects quality of life, according to Stein.

“OT is important to assess the ability of people to participate in usual activities. Work is important and many people equate occupation with work. However, life involves more than work. Participating in life includes taking care of ourselves, our family and friends, pets, home, yard, or attending to community. These are all ‘occupations’,” Stein said.

“The state did halt therapy for a few weeks, and many providers had upheaval for several months,” she said.

And while Stein eventually returned to her practice, the buzz surrounding providing telehealth continued in the medical and therapeutic communities.

“Back in March 2020, we hosted a webinar. We had numerous occupational therapists, physical therapists (PTs) and speech language pathologists (SLPs) in attendance; more than we have previously seen attending our telemedicine training programs,” said Melanie Esher-Blair, MAdm, Distance Education & Event Coordinator for the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC) and the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP).

“They wanted more information on how to put the ‘tele’ into their scope of practice to maintain continuity of care for their clients,” said Esher-Blair.
She said she knew the SWTRC and the ATP had the experts for developing a program. Both OT and PT national associations have information regarding how telehealth fits into the scope of practice, so attendees of the March webinar agreed creating a training around telehealth was important. An interdisciplinary team worked together to come up with the Occupational and Physical Therapy Webinar Series.

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