Changing the way we do things is often a challenge. People are used to receiving healthcare face to face, so the switch to telehealth care during the pandemic was bound to bring up mixed feelings. Necessity is a great motivator. Regardless of the challenges thousands of patients and clinicians found themselves embarking on telehealth over the last few months. If you had a condition that needed to be managed, this was the only option for many in people in Australia and all over the world.

Is telehealth physiotherapy an acceptable alternative to face-to-face care?

The short answer is, yes. There is developing evidence that treatment for common conditions that physiotherapists treat, such as shoulder pain and osteoarthritis, can be delivered via telehealth and the outcomes of treatments are similar to this achieved via face-to-face care.

The biggest barriers to treatment appear to be the perceptions of patients and physiotherapists. I, along with Complete. Physio Exercise Performance co-director Christian Barton, recently led a team of researchers from La Trobe, Melbourne and Monash Universities in a study that sought the views of 827 physiotherapists about telehealth. Most thought treatment may not be as effective via telehealth, and that patients may not value the service because there is no hands-on care provided. The view of physiotherapists as hands on practitioners is fairly universal, but in reality, the exercise and advice that we offer is far more evidence based and ‘essential’ to the recovery of musculoskeletal conditions.

Will telehealth survive beyond the Pandemic?

There will always be an important place for face-to-face care. However, we believe that post-pandemic telehealth services will grow because many people realise the advantages and that positive outcomes are possible. The key advantages of telehealth are accessing people who are not able to attend in person (due to geography or other reasons), and the convenience of not having to travel (saving time and money) if you don’t need to.

At Complete. Physio Exercise Peformance we have been undertaking telehealth physiotherapy for people who live interstate and overseas for years and look forward to growing this service into the future.