Telehealth is a new concept in South Africa. Traditional physiotherapy consists of hands-on treatment like massage, dry needling, spinal mobilization etc. Can physiotherapy be effective in telehealth without hands-on treatment? This article will explain what telehealth is about and more specifically what a physio can achieve during a telehealth session.
What is Telehealth?
In telehealth we use technology like telecommunication to provide physiotherapy services to patients. Video conferencing is done in real time between a physio and a patient. Telehealth is sometimes referred to as telemedicine, tele-PT or telerehabilitation.
Telehealth was recently approved by the Health Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for healthcare professionals during the national lock down period, to assist South Africa in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.
Healthcare professionals around the world use Telehealth with great success. South Africans need to start to embrace this new form of treatment, because it has many benefits.
What are the benefits of physiotherapy in Telehealth?
Improve access to physiotherapy services
There are many people in South Africa that do not have access to proper healthcare. Telehealth is a great way to close this gap and provide healthcare to communities that desperately need it.
Reduce the need for travel
You can do Telehealth in the comfort of your own home or office. It gives you the flexibility to still do your physio session, whether you have a sick child at home, or caught up with work at the office. It reduces the need to travel, saving you time and money.
Decrease exposure to infectious diseases
Telehealth is effective to avoid social contact in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Cost effective treatment
Telehealth sessions are cheaper than normal physiotherapy sessions, making it more affordable to see a physio.
It empowers the patient
Physiotherapy has evolved so much over the years. Focus is shifting from a physio- dependent practice to a patient-empowering practice. Self-treatment techniques empowers the patient, making them less dependent on the physiotherapist. Patients need to realize that they can play a big role in treating their own pain. The human body is so amazing that it can heal itself when you do the right exercises and techniques.
How can a physio treat without touching the patient?
1) We start with a proper evaluation
The success in a physiotherapy session lies in the ability of the physio to do a thorough evaluation of the patient. The history and onset of pain and symptoms can give many clues about the type of injury a patient has. Treatment will focus on sorting out the cause of the problem, rather than just treating the symptoms.
Objective and baseline tests help to confirm the diagnosis. Physio’s are experts at analyzing movement and picking up compensation patterns that contribute to the problem.
Once the cause of the problem is determined, we can start to treat it with self-treatment techniques and exercises.
2) Self-treatment techniques
The following techniques are just examples, your physio will decide which type of treatment is best for your individual needs. Please take note that not all physios are trained in these specific types of techniques. Therefore each physio will use their own discretion and clinical knowledge to treat a patient.
The McKenzie exercises is an assessment and treatment approach for back and neck pain as well as extremity problems. This approach is also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) and it is used worldwide by practitioners and patients. The McKenzie Method empowers the patient to take charge of their own pain by doing direction specific exercises. Your physio will guide you on which direction is the best for your situation and how to progress the exercises.
This is a well-known technique and has a lot of research and great results to back it up. If you want to learn more about this technique please visit www.mckenziemdt.org.
Be-Activated Self Activation Techniques
The Be Activated system is a powerful treatment technique developed by Douglas Heel. It gives us a new understanding of the body through the fascia lines and reflex points. Practitioners all around the world use it with great success on children, the elderly, social and elite sports men, business men and office workers. It empowers you to understand your body’s compensation pattern and how to control it. For more information on how it works please read our blog: https://www.justphysio.co.za/activate-your-core-muscles-with-the-be-activated-system/
Brain Mulligan, a physiotherapist from New Zealand, developed self-mobilization techniques to treat back, neck and other joint pain. These techniques are very safe and effective to do at home.
Warm water bottles or ice treatment.
Heat and cold treatment can assist the healing process in musculo-skeletal pain. Most people have an ice pack or frozen vegetables in their freezer as well as a warm water bottle in their home. Your physio will advise you on how to use it.
Advice to deal with pain.
Physio’s can give you ample advice on how to manage acute and chronic pain. They will advise you on your posture, exercises, fitness and how to manage pain in your daily routine. Please read our blog, for more information on chronic pain. https://www.justphysio.co.za/unveiling-the-truth-about-pain/.
3) Home Exercise Program
Physios are experts when it comes to exercise therapy. Exercise programs can start from the acute phase and progress all the way to the final rehabilitation phase. Sports physios can take athletes back to the sport field with the most up to date exercise and rehabilitation programs.
What are the potential risks of telehealth?
Technology may have limitations like:
- Data- and internet failures.
- Interruption and disconnections of the audio/video link.
- Pictures that are not clear enough to meet the needs of a consultation.
- Potential electronic tampering.
The consultation will not be the same as a direct patient/ physiotherapist visit.
- The physio can’t examine the patient physically.
- The physio is therefore reliant on the patients complete and honest explanation of their signs and symptoms.
Privacy and Potential hacking
- Just Physio will always do everything in it’s power to maintain confidentiality and meet privacy standards during each session.
- Telecommunication can be exposed to hacking and other online risks.
- To decrease the risk of hacking you can do the following:
- Make use of a known and secure internet connection.
- Make sure you are alone during a telehealth consultation to increase privacy.
- Only communicate using secure telecommunication platforms.
What does our patients say about telehealth?
Telehealth can be a very effective way to provide physiotherapy services to patients! It is safe, cost effective and most of all it gives results! So, get “Self treatment tools” and take charge of your own health! Movement and empowering yourself truly brings healing. Sort out your pain today and book a session with us!
Written By: Adrien Dannhauser (BPhyst, SPT1)