Virtual Pediatric Physical Therapy Tips
Remote telehealth services can be difficult for children to adjust to. Get the best virtual pediatric physical therapy tips from Healthie.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, remote telehealth services have been radically reshaping standard approaches to healthcare. While online resources, video chat, and messages are all great ways to ensure your patients are receiving the care they need, they can also be hard to get used to - particularly for kids. Virtual pediatric physical therapy comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are 6 telehealth tips for children’s physical therapy that will help keep your patients focused, engaged, and on track towards their functional goals.
Think outside the box
When you begin planning virtual pediatric physical therapy sessions, don’t cling too tightly to traditional methods of care. Think of telehealth as an opportunity to experiment with creative ideas that you may not have been able to otherwise try.
Make use of eye-catching elements on the screen, such as short videos and cartoons. Spark patients’ interest with toys, colorful spinners, or trendy games. Telehealth sessions also make it easier to have more frequent (but shorter and more productive) sessions with patients, which is great when working with kids who easily get tired or bored.
Plan your pediatric physical therapy sessions
To keep the children’s physical therapy session flowing naturally, it’s important to prepare things ahead of time. This doesn’t need to be strict - just a basic outline of things that you want to cover. This will help you feel calm, confident, and help you have a focus point to keep in mind throughout the session.
Knowing what you’re going to be doing can also help you put together a list of supplies, so the child’s caregiver can have everything ready before you get started. Remember to keep this list simple and use materials they're likely to already have at home, like soft toys, markers, or cardboard.
You can also ask caregivers to lay a blanket or mat on the floor before a session. Giving your patient a reference for how far out they can venture before you can’t see them is a great pediatric telehealth tip that makes it much easier to communicate with excited small kids, who might be prone to moving around.
Be flexible and willing to adapt
While doing some preparation is important, keep in mind that things will almost never go exactly according to plan. You’re likely to face technical difficulties, issues around lack of access to technology or materials, and communication barriers.
When these things happen, don’t allow yourself to get frustrated or flustered. Not everything is within your control, so make sure you always have a back-up plan in place. After the virtual pediatric physical therapy session, use what you learned to inform how you work with this patient in the future. Remember - what works for one patient may not work for another.
Include the caregiver
A recent study from the University of Missouri found that caregiver engagement and willingness to participate is the most important factor when it comes to effective online pediatric physiotherapy . Therefore, it’s so important to get to know each caregiver and build a positive working relationship with them.
You may wish to set up a time to have a chat about things such as their priorities and goals for the treatment plan, the equipment or materials they have access to, and their usual routine. Encourage them to ask questions or bring up any concerns they may have, so it’s as easy as possible for them to take on an active role in the patient’s treatment.
Prioritize support between sessions
While your live telehealth sessions are important, the time in between sessions can be just as valuable. Check in regularly with the family, so you can answer questions, resolve any issues around the patient’s Home Exercise Program (HEP), and make the caregiver feel like they’re getting all the support they need.
You don’t need to schedule video calls for this, either. Research on pediatric telehealth actually found that low-tech options, such as messaging and email, are highly effective forms of communication. Many physical therapists find that messages are the best way to keep in touch with families between sessions.
Use a telehealth platform
Don’t have information floating around on various platforms - a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform allows you to easily consolidate all information relating to a patient’s treatment.
You’ll be able to easily share resources such as videos showing how to complete an exercise, key notes from each session, or helpful articles, so caregivers can access relevant information whenever they need it.
You can also send secure chat messages to patients and their families, and host live telehealth sessions through the platform. Recording pediatric physical therapy sessions and uploading them as a video will let patients and their families revisit the session later and refresh their memory of key points and exercises.
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