The demand for occupational therapists that can give quality teletherapy has gone from a few early adopters to a wide portion of the therapy population almost overnight with stay at home orders and other precautions.
Now that many clients have been forced to make the jump to teletherapy, they are starting to consider whether or not coming in for regular therapy needs to happen every time when there’s a plethora of advantages to the client of why teletherapy is a good option and treatment outcomes have been shown to be very similar.
Whether it be these bigger types of disruptions that limit travel or human contact, time conflicts, the inability to get their child physically to care, or something else there are all sorts of reasons that therapy can be delayed or put off. In many cases it wouldn’t have to be if the therapy was done remotely.
When therapy is put off, it ends up hurting the patient and dramatically impacts their progress when working with an OT.
Could there be a simple solution to this challenge?
We think so.
This booming industry has reached its impressive numbers for a good reason. In fact, studies have shown that teletherapy is just as effective as traditional therapy.
As we move forward, our reliance on technology in business will increase.
From AOTA regarding telehealth:
“The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the long awaited news April 30th, that occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech language pathologists can now perform telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries….This allows health care professionals who were previously ineligible to furnish and bill for Medicare telehealth services, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and others, to receive payment for Medicare telehealth services.”
Now is the time for OTs to begin building successful, sustainable teletherapy businesses in order to get ahead and have the capacity to provide patients with the most cutting-edge treatment.
Making sure they are informed on best practices for conducting teletherapy is a huge help for establishing the credibility with patients that a therapist takes teletherapy seriously enough to learn the differences and challenges of using teletherapy in place of in-person services.
Here are 20 reasons teletherapy can benefit your patients as an OT.
- Accessible to More People
Think about all of the people who don’t have access to an in-person OT and, therefore, they miss out. Due to therapist shortages, teletherapy is an innovative alternative for those living in rural communities or inner city areas who might normally have trouble finding an in-person OT. Teletherapy allows OTs to connect with patients who may not live close by or who might otherwise have trouble physically making it to appointments. This levels the playing field, so to speak, and makes OT therapy accessible to the majority, rather than a sliver of the population.
- Reduces Missed Sessions
Teletherapy is easily one of the best ways to eliminate the chances of your patients missing their sessions. They don’t have to worry about traffic or parking, and can access each session from the comfort of their own home making them much more likely to show up.
- Unlimited Resources
The Internet has endless resources at the touch of a button. OTs have access to these assets and can help patients find ones that are geared towards each patient’s interests, which can make every session enjoyable and inspiring.
- No Germs!
Sometimes sick patients will still come in for their appointment. Not only does this put you at risk, but your other patients as well. Teletherapy can keep you and your patients safe from contracting an illness, while still maintaining treatment. This also plays a major role in reducing last-minute cancellations, which are very common when a patient falls ill.
As the world readjusts to new norms of physical distance during interaction to prevent potential infections, therapists may often find themselves having to adjust their practices in person, making the practices of teletherapy much more similar to in-person practices.
- Gives Students Equal Opportunity
Even if OT therapy is offered in schools, children who are not willing or not physically able to attend school will still miss out. This could be for various reasons; medically fragile, emotionally impaired, temporarily homebound. However, having a teletherapy practice includes even the students who are not physically attending a brick-and-mortar school.
- Creates a Safe Environment
Conducting sessions via technology allows patients to participate while in a safe and private environment. Often patients feel most comfortable in their own homes so the ability to provide services directly to this environment is highly beneficial. Many people experience anxiety when sitting in a waiting room for their appointment. It can feel sterile and impersonal. For some, traveling to an unfamiliar environment to meet with a stranger can be downright stressful. Having a teletherapy practice can alleviate this by getting patients comfortable with OT therapy while still in their homes.
- Increased Flexibility
The traditional therapy model consists of limited office hours. For busy professionals and parents this is often a challenge. There are too many priorities to juggle and your sessions could easily fall to the wayside. Teletherapy for OTs enables patients to receive the care they need when they need it most. There is also much more flexibility when it comes to rescheduling and holding emergency sessions if needed.
- Reduced Wait Times
With increased flexibility comes less time waiting for patients. Since making a therapy appointment can feel uncomfortable and requires courage, the simpler and faster the process can be made the more likely the patient is to follow through. Teletherapy eliminates the need to leave work early to make an appointment, battle traffic while commuting to and from the appointment, along with sitting in the waiting room. Being able to access the session wherever the patient is makes receiving care and support that much easier.
- Easy Access for Those With Disabilities
Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities are not always able to access in-person therapy and if they are it can be an extreme hassle. Lack of wheelchair accessibility, physical distance, or even sensory challenges such as extreme heat or cold can be a significant challenge holding people back from getting the help they need. It is much more convenient for these patients to have access to their OT therapist without having to leave their home.
- Accessible to College Students
Being away at college might mean a student doesn’t have access to an in-person OT therapist or, if they do, they might feel embarrassed walking into an office where they could run into someone they know. The student might not have a car to get them to and from appointments and might feel ashamed asking friends for a ride. Fortunately, teletherapy gives college students access to a wide network of providers without needing any transportation.
- Streamlined Communication
Thanks to technology, the lives of OT patients have been made simpler. Billing, scheduling and charting can all be offered online along with teletherapy via a secure link. This technology allows OT therapists to communicate quickly and easily with their patients through text and email reminders and they can have all of their patients’ information in one secure place. The simplicity of this model diminishes the chances of double-booking patients and mixing up appointment times.
- Improved Patient Timelines
Teletherapy sessions allow the OT and the patient to truly make the most of their time. The session can start at the click of a button and patients can show up feeling clear-headed and enthusiastic because they didn’t have to deal with rushing to their appointment, running low on gas, or getting stuck in traffic.
Whether it’s severe weather or major car accidents that shut down the roads, patients don’t have to miss out on a session due to unforeseeable events such as these. In cases like this, some patients would still try to make it to their appointment, risking their safety in the process. Teletherapy eliminates this issue altogether.
Time is our most valued resource because it’s the one we will never get back. With this being said, teletherapy is an effective and efficient way to work with patients while saving them time and energy. It can already take a lot of the patient’s energy to find the time to fit sessions into their busy schedule. Teletherapy makes the process simpler and less stressful by eliminating travel and other activities that take up precious time. As a result, the time and energy your patients save can be put into their sessions and working towards bettering their health and well-being.
- Privacy and Confidentiality
Seeking therapy can be a sensitive subject for some and as an OT therapist it’s up to you to ensure your patients feel safe and secure during your sessions. It’s common for patients to feel anxious at the thought of running into someone they know in the waiting room. Goali Saedi Bocci, a therapist who specializes in working with teens and young adults, recalls that it’s quite common for her patients to know each other even if they attend different schools or live in different cities altogether. She shares that it has happened more than once where she will walk out of her office and encounter her patients interacting awkwardly with small talk because they knew each other years ago. It is important to keep in mind that some people are very private about therapy and would prefer that it stay as confidential as possible. Teletherapy completely removes this worry, which can encourage more people to stick with OT therapy who, in a traditional setting, might be resistant.
- Low Barrier to Entry
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles OT therapy patients face is the initial appointment. Statistics show that the modal number of sessions patients attend is just one. There are several reasons why a patient might show up for one session never to return again. If they had a bad experience, didn’t connect with the OT therapist, or didn’t feel as though the session was a good use of time the patient will be very unlikely to make the effort to continue sessions. On top of this, if the OT therapist’s office is challenging to get to the patient may find it easier to just not go anymore. Teletherapy is so effective in eliminating these initial obstacles because it’s easy to attend sessions and there is much less of an upfront commitment on the patient’s end when they are trying out a new therapist. Patients can join sessions feeling safe in their homes where they have access to their favorite things, whether that be a cozy blanket or a cup of their favorite tea. When the patient feels comfortable they are much more likely to have a successful session.
- Reduced Costs
Another great benefit your patients may experience with teletherapy is that it may help them to save money on treatment. They are also very likely to have fewer costs related to their treatment, such as travel expenses or child care, because they can access their sessions directly from their home or wherever is most convenient for them.
- Better Public Health
With the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen just how important it is to take public health issues seriously. We have also seen how these unexpected events can completely shake up our “normal” routines and make it challenging to continue things such as therapy sessions and doctor visits when social distancing is essential. Teletherapy combats this challenge by allowing patients to continue with their sessions despite what is happening nationally or globally. This format also allows us to protect vulnerable populations and decrease the risk of spreading disease during epidemics and pandemics.
- Total Family Involvement is Possible
Teletherapy allows families to become more involved in their child’s progress, which can create deeper familial bonds and a sense of collaboration in the family. When sessions are held in the home, parents have the ability to observe them and play an active role in their child’s development. In many cases they may even be actively involved in the role of a facilitator.
- Integrates Therapy into Daily Life
Teletherapy helps to remove some of the social stigmas associated with therapy by allowing it to become an integrated part of the daily lives of your patients. This allows your patients to begin to view their sessions as part of their healthy lifestyle rather than something they have to do in order to “fix” themselves. This mindset shift can have a positive impact on your patients and the way they view themselves.
Conclusion: Clients Already Want Teletherapy- Make Sure they Get Quality
It is clear that the healthcare industry will continue to utilize technology more and more in order to enhance the patient’s experience. As an OT therapist, there is great opportunity in beginning a teletherapy practice as this will offer patients flexibility, the chance to save time and money, and so much more.
Whilte teletherapy has a lot to offer patients and therapists alike, it is important to make sure therapists know how to properly perform teletherapy to achieve the same progress as they would doing in person sessions, per AOTA guidelines. Looking to incorporate more teletherapy into your practice?
Learn more about how telepractice certification can prepare you to address each step and successfully transition in person sessions to effective teletherapy sessions.
Important to Note: “Use of telepractice must be equivalent to the quality of services provided in person and consistent with adherence to the Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2016a), Scope of Practice in Audiology (ASHA, 2018), Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology (ASHA, 2016b), state and federal laws (e.g., licensure, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.-c]), and ASHA policy.”
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