Innovations and adaptations of our Hand Therapy service in a quickly evolving health landscape

Ms Annie Clapham1, Bernice Mills1, Sue Rowan1, Todd Curtis1

1Barwon Health, Geelong, Australia

The hand therapy (HT) service at Barwon Health has demonstrated our ability to adapt to a quickly evolving health landscape to ensure the sustainability of our service.

During COVID19, our service moved from a face-to-face service operating from University Hospital Geelong, to a predominantly telehealth service operating from the hospital, a community rehabilitation centre, and work from home (WFH). We quickly developed new relationships, and new processes to ensure efficient work flow, including electronic versions of forms, and a student project to ensure appropriate resources are available for providing telehealth appointments.

Some staff were required to WFH, resulting in a shortage of on-site therapists for hands-on intervention. We developed a system in which a remote therapist was used via telehealth in outpatient clinics to assist the on-site therapist with information gathering, education and documentation. This reduces demand on the on-site therapist, and reduces wait-room timeframes.

Inpatient Occupational Therapy staff were upskilled to assist with inpatient HT clients. This facilitates faster discharge planning and allows HT staff to focus on outpatient services.

An audit showed a high percentage of “fail to attend” with simple hand diagnoses, subsequently reducing the number of appointments available for complex injuries. We developed projected plans for simple diagnoses, which is provided at their initial appointment for self-management.

Traditionally regional clients would have an initial review in Geelong and then be referred locally. We identified that these clients could be referred to have all HT locally. This reduces our caseload, and provides improved consistency of care.


Annie Clapham is an Occupational Therapist who has worked in the area of hand therapy since graduating with honours from Deakin University. Annie gained experience in private practice working across two private practice clinics in Warrnambool, before moving to Geelong in 2015 to join the Barwon Health hand therapy team and gain experience within the public healthcare setting. Annie is now one of the clinical leads of the hand therapy service at Barwon Health. Annie has demonstrated her commitment to the hand therapy profession, passing her Certified Hand Therapy (USA) exam in 2019. In 2020 she commenced studying her Masters of Hand Therapy with the University of Derby.

Bernice Mills – Biography to come

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