Telehealth in Outpatient Physiotherapy during COVID-19: Happy patients, but is it effective?

Ms Kim Mcmanus1, Dr  Paula Harding1, Dr  Lara Kimmel1,2

1Physiotherapy Department, The Alfred Hospital, Prahran, Australia, 2Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Introduction: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Alfred Hospital Physiotherapy Department changed all non-essential musculoskeletal appointments to telehealth on 23rd March 2020. This report evaluates patient uptake, satisfaction and clinician perceived effectiveness of a physiotherapy telehealth service.

Methods: Patient satisfaction (via phone survey) and clinician perceived effectiveness (via questionnaire) were evaluated over a two-week period. Multivariate analysis was undertaken to determine factors associated with each of these outcomes.

‘Telehealth uptake’ was the percentage of patients who accepted a telehealth (rather than face-to-face) appointment.

Results: There were 216 telehealth appointments in the survey period. Response rate was 63% for the patient survey and 88% for the clinician questionnaire.

Eighty-six percent of patients were satisfied with no factors found to be associated with patient satisfaction. Clinicians reported 52% of appointments as effective. The following factors were found to be associated with effectiveness: Video over phone (OR 15.9, 95% CI 0.75-1.80, p < 0.00), Non-English speaking (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.22-0.89, p = 0.02), review over initial (OR 3.49, 95% CI 1.38-8.86, p = 0.01), no technical issues (OR 2.87, 95% CI 1.03-7.94, p = 0.043).

One-hundred-and-seventeen of the 217 patients (53%) with a cancelled physiotherapy face-to-face appointment accepted telehealth as an alternative.

Discussion: During the COVID-19 pandemic, patients accepting of telehealth appointments report high levels of satisfaction. Delivering outpatient musculoskeletal physiotherapy via telehealth is perceived overall as effective by clinicians with factors including video appointments, English speaking patients, review appointments and those without technical issues associated with being deemed effective.


Kim McManus is a senior physiotherapist at The Alfred Hospital working in musculoskeletal outpatients and advanced practice settings. Kim graduated in 2003 and has since completed a clinical Masters of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy at La Trobe University in 2014. Kim has lead the widespread introduction of telehealth services in the physiotherapy department as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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