PLoS One. 2023 Nov 8;18(11):e0291605. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0291605. eCollection 2023.
Telehealth has helped to increase access to rehabilitative services such as occupational and physical therapy. The early COVID-19 pandemic amplified the need for remote access to care, and the rapid implementation of telehealth systems provided a unique opportunity to learn from clinicians’ experiences adopting telehealth for telerehabilitation applications. To understand these experiences, a self-administered online survey was conducted to capture perspectives on ease of telerehabilitation use and adoption from occupational and physical therapists. The survey captured retrospective views on telerehabilitation use pre-pandemic as well as real-time perspectives on telerehabilitation during the early stages of the pandemic (July to August 2020). The survey gathered information on clinician demographics (N = 109), clinicians’ experiences with adopting or utilizing telerehabilitation systems, and their perceptions on remotely performing cognitive, emotional, and physical assessments via video-conferencing (a common mode of telehealth). Responses demonstrated a modest increase in telerehabilitation as a care setting (rate increase from 3.4% to 19.3%), and telerehabilitation was more generally tried during the early stages of the pandemic (41 clinicians explicitly reported telerehabilitation use). However, technology access and acceptance remained low, with 38 clinicians (35%) expressing concerns that technology was ineffective or impractical, unavailable, not covered by insurance, or not desired by their patients. Video-conferencing technology was perceived as generally ill-equipped to support clinicians in performing remote assessment tasks. Physical assessment tasks were considered particularly difficult, with 55% of clinicians rating their ability to perform these tasks in the range of moderately difficult to unable to perform. To address these difficulties and better augment clinical care, clinicians require more robust assessment methods that may combine video, mobile, and wearable technologies that would be accessible to a patient at home. When designing future telerehabilitation tools, information captured through these modes must be task-relevant, standardized, and understandable to a remote clinician.