Sophia Sauter, owner of Active LIving Physiotherapy, is making use of telerehab techniques to provide physiotherapy care during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need the social isolation. Photo contributed

Physiotherapy clinic offers telerehab to maintain service during pandemic

Just because services, jobs, socializing have been put on hold, it doesn’t mean your injuries have been as well.

That’s why a local physiotherapy clinic is offering “telerehab,” the provision of services remotely during this pandemic.

Sophia Sauter of Active Living Physiotherapy in Campbell River says during this period of social isolation, face-to-face physiotherapy can’t be provided but it is strongly recommended that people continue to stay active and exercise for all the physical and mental health benefits. In fact, it might even be more important than ever to help people cope with the current situation.

“So, if people are still out there exercising (or should be!) and getting hurt, they will continue to need physiotherapy,” Sauter said.

Sauter is trying to stay open virtually and so is switching to either phone or video conference calls.

“The word for it is ‘telerehab,’ ” Sauter said.

Telerehab is actually not something completely new, developed with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also applies to other fields of medicine under the term telehealth or virtual care, Sauter said. The physio portion of it is telerehabilitation.

“When would you use this service, well during a period of social isolation or when face-to-face physiotherapy can’t be provided,” Sauter said.

It is something that Sauter has wanted to launch for a year at least. Sauter attended a seminar on it in Vancouver a year ago. So, during spring break, Sauter spent some time putting a plan together.

It’s become particularly important during these stressful times to remain active, exercise for all the physical and mental health benefits.

Another group that needs to access physiotherapy are urgent/acute cases, especially frontline hospital staff who need to be kept healthy and working. Also people with acute pain, those who have just completed surgery and those who have suffered trauma and injury.

“All these things are still going to happen in our world and they’re still going to need care but they can’t come physically through our doors,” Sauter said.

You can maintain continued contact with your physiotherapist during your rehab journey. The physiotherapist has access to your physiotherapy medical charts and imaging reports. They are able to diagnose your injury because they can do over video many of the examination tests they would normally do, sometimes with assistance of the patient themselves.

Research shows that the diagnostic accuracy of telerehab assessments is not inferior to face-to-face assessments, Sauter said.

In terms of providing treatment, things that physiotherapist usually do – education and self management, tips for your condition, exercises, demonstrations, and progressions – can all be emailed as well. Research has again shown that telerehab has produced physical and functional results that were comparable to (and better in some cases) to those achieved through traditional face-to-face meetings and there was a high level of satisfaction reported.

But can you trust it?

“Patients can expect the same safe, quality care that you would get during an in-person visit at Active Living Physiotherapy, Sauter said.

Physiotherapists are required to meet the same Standards of Practice established by the College of Physiotherapists of B.C. Appointments are completely confidential, not recorded, and charted normally. A secure, encrypted video platform is used and visits are private. Your physiotherapist will be in their home office, and you can choose your choice of location. Active Living Physiotherapy has an example video of what an appointment is like.

The downside of telerehab is missing out on the hands-on portion of a physiotherapy treatment – massage, manual therapy, needling, etc.

But, with a little adaptation, Active Living can teach you how to perform at-home treatment techniques with a foam roller, trigger point ball, or even random household items like a towel, belt, milk jugs or soup cans used as weights. Plus you can have a family member assist.

Approximately 50-70 per cent of a physiotherapy treatment consists of appropriate exercise prescription, and patient education which is easily done over video calls.

All you need is a phone for the most basic appointment. For video calls, you’ll need an internet connection, an email address, a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone and a room with an area to sit, stand and lie down (which you can use a mat or bed for.)

“We are going to have to change our ways, be creative, come up with new ways of doing things, and stay positive. And most importantly, we need to continue to look after our health,” Sauter said.

“This situation isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Sure, your first video appointment may not go perfectly without any glitches, but I think you’ll be surprised what we can do remotely and we’ll all get better with practice! I’m excited about what we are offering at the clinic – something for everyone, and I encourage you to give it a try. It’s easier than you think.”

Another aspect is the business perspective, particularly the aspect of supporting local businesses during this time.

“Keep our community strong – we all need to give/support local. I’m a Mom of 10-year-old twin boys, I have three physios that all need work, two receptionists…I want to keep them all employed.”

For more see activelivingphysio.com

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