The successes of telehealth #VideoPhysio
When COVID hit, we wanted to make sure that our kids were not let down by any restrictions, so the team at Splash Physiotherapy jumped on telehealth straight away!
Image description: Mohamad enjoys playing a game with his mother and sister, supported by Alex over telehealth. Everyone is focussed on the balloon and smiling, enjoying the game.
Telehealth is an area of support that has really come into play across both 2020 and 2021.
In a 2021 survey of NDIS participants, 63% of people accessed some form of allied health support through telehealth.
We already had experience in delivering telehealth to families in rural and remote Australia, and Shayna has used it to support physiotherapists with mentoring where they didn't have local access. So thankfully we weren't starting from scratch! You can read more about telehealth here
We do telehealth the Splash Physio way
Evidence based approach
The approaches we have taken to telehealth continue to be guided by our values, including play-based care and a family-centred approach.
Ensuring that kids are having fun during telehealth is really the cornerstone to success, as not only does it increase
engagement and therapeutic gain, but it makes our sessions seem a lot less like work!
We know that what we do needs to be both active and meaningful to optimise learning, and making things engaging for children is the best way to do that!
#VideoPhysio can go where you go!
Telehealth also doesn’t need to be locked down to one location. The benefit of our approach is that we can move around, using different parts of the house, backyard or even the local park. Especially while we were in lockdown ourselves, it was lovely to be transported to all of your homes and neighbourhoods!
We've done sessions the bath (with bathers on of course!), the park, outside, and for assistive technology appointments. The flexibility is super helpful.
We can also use the toys and equipment that a child has handy at home, hence, we can identify ways that a child can practice their skills during the week too.
We have also identified and developed several other tools, such as games and choice wheels too, to help
us continue improving care provided to your child.
Developing self efficacy
For many of the children Alex has been working with, one goal has been to get to a fully independent session where children didn't need their parents' help at all.
When a child is able to take ownership, their self-confidence and personal belief increases dramatically.
Some kids have even started to understand why we were practicing certain things, while others started coming up with their own ideas of how to practice their activities.
Many children need support from their parents or caregivers, and it's been a lovely opportunity to involve family members who are usually busy at work or school!
Parents have told us how much they've enjoyed learning more about ways to support learning in routines based activities at home, and how this dynamic has changed being at home so much more together over lockdowns.
The resilience and reflective skills that some of our kids have developed through telehealth has been amazing, and they and their parents should all be applauded for their efforts.
Am I just a face on a screen?
It's important to remember that we are not trying to interact with children through the screen, and just pretending we are in the room! While that approach works well for many kids, there are plenty others who this doesn't suit.
This is where our values of working in partnership with families, recognising that parents are experts in their children, adjusting to each child's individual needs, and focussing on family capacity come to the fore.
We have been adaptive, flexible and inventive in developing a huge variety of approaches for telehealth use, and have also eagerly participated in a great deal of professional development looking at the options for best possible service delivery.
We've been thrilled to receive such positive feedback from families, including those new to us in 2021 who had negative experiences with telehealth elsewhere previously, and who were initially very hesitant!
Like anything with physiotherapy, telehealth isn't 'right' or 'wrong' for a particular child. It's about the approach taken by the physiotherapist and the adults in the child's life, and the goals that they have.
Keeping an eye on participation and teamwork
Importantly, we've been able to maintain our focus on the big picture participation goals, and working towards these with functional skills and addressing contributing factors (such as body structure and function, environmental facilitators and barriers).
We've also been able to fit in more team meetings with speech therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and educators as there's been no travel time to contend with! Improved collaboration with families and their supports has made a real difference to participation in a range of settings and this is an aspect of remote work we are keen to see continue.
With how successful telehealth has been, we are excited to continue it into the future when kids aren’t able to see us in person, and we’re confident that it is an excellent tool in the therapeutic toolkit!
This article is co - authored by Alexander Cowcher & Shayna Gavin, Splash Physiotherapists.
Alexander Cowcher is a Splash physiotherapist working with young children to young adults in aquatic, land and telehealth physiotherapy. He has a strong focus on developing the skills that help kids to join in with activities in their everyday life at home, school and the community, and loves to see kids getting active riding their bikes and joining in with their sports teams. He has sessions available for aquatic physiotherapy at our Greensborough pool and nearby wheelchair accessible pool, visits and telehealth, and loves our sports and recreation intensives over the school holidays.
Shayna Gavin is a physiotherapist who is passionate about helping babies, children and young people learn functional skills so they can participate in life at home, school and in their community. Recognising that children do best in their own environments, she visits homes, schools, and leisure activities from football fields to ballet classes. She also has daily aquatic physiotherapy sessions available at two private swimming schools in Moonee Ponds and Greensborough, Melbourne. She combines principles of paediatric physiotherapy, Contemporary Neuro Developmental Treatment, motor learning, and swimming teaching to address the individual needs of each child and their family. She loves providing professional development to physiotherapists, allied health and education professionals, allied health assistants and swimming teachers.