The telehealth experience in physiotherapy outpatient services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ms Dragana Ceprnja1, Ms Tracey Clarke1, Mr Jonathan Young1, Ms Rebecca Lee1, Ms Kylie Flynn1, Ms Katherine Maka1

1Western Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, Australia

Background:  The COVID- 19 pandemic led to the rapid implementation of telehealth service delivery for patients attending physiotherapy outpatient services.

Aim: To provide insights into the experiences of patients and physiotherapists who utilised telehealth services.

Method: All patients utilising telehealth services in the physiotherapy outpatient setting at Westmead hospital were asked to complete a purposely designed My Experience Matters Telehealth for Allied Health Services (MEMTAHS) survey after their telehealth session. Physiotherapists providing telehealth services were invited to complete an online survey including the validated Telehealth Usability Questionnaire (TUQ) and open ended responses. Descriptive analysis of quantitative data was completed and a thematic approach to analysing qualitative data was undertaken.

Results: From June 2020 to October 2020, 91 patients completed the MEMTAHS survey, with 93% rating their experience as good (34%) to excellent (59%), 93% found telehealth easy to use, and 90% were satisfied with the time it took to organise a telehealth appointment. Fifteen physiotherapists, of mean (SD) 16.2 (11.1) years experience, completed the staff survey. Most physiotherapists agreed telehealth improved access to healthcare (73%) and saved travelling time (94%). However, physiotherapists cited unreliable technology and inefficiencies with associated administration as barriers to telehealth. Overall staff satisfaction with telehealth was 60%.

Conclusion: These findings suggest telehealth is an acceptable model of service delivery supported by consumers who reported positive experiences and found it easy to use. Additional work may be needed to improve the technical and logistical aspects of telehealth in order to embed this service in busy clinical settings.


Biography:

Dragana Ceprnja is a Health Professional Educator and senior musculoskeletal physiotherapist at Westmead Hospital. Dragana is currently enrolled in a PhD at Western Sydney University, with the focus of her studies being pregnancy related pelvic girdle pain. Dragana has a strong commitment to improving health care experiences and outcomes in musculoskeletal conditions, and is involved in research addressing services in low back pain, knee osteoarthritis, education and health literacy. Dragana is Chair of the Physiotherapy Research Committee at Westmead Hospital and is a current recipient of the Westmead Hospital Charitable Trust Allied Health Research Grant.

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