Making Occupational Therapy More Accessible

Occupational therapy is an invaluable resource for tens of thousands of Americans every year. With its focus on increasing strength and dexterity in practical ways that people can use in daily tasks and common workplace experiences, it is often the clearest path back to work after an injury. That’s not all, though. Occupational therapy services also provide much needed developmental tools to patients with a variety of conditions, helping them gain the skills they need to live and work independently. That makes it an essential resource when a diagnosis calls for it, which is why increasing access to OC resources is so important to the triple aim of healthcare improvement in the U.S.

What Is the Triple Aim Plan?

The 2010 Affordable Care Act included provisions for improving the quality of healthcare, improving its costs to individuals, and improving the health of the American population through the promotion of prevention and wellness programs. It’s a cornerstone of healthcare policy over the last decade, driving many of the decisions about care recommendations and changes to the protocols used by many practices to address patient issues. Telehealth occupational therapy can help reach those goals by giving patients who have trouble accessing transportation or leaving their homes a means of accessing care that still puts them face to face with therapists. By helping more people access the care they need without the use of expensive additional services like patient transport, telehealth programs lower costs. By making it possible for more people to access OC services, it also improves their health and the quality of care they receive. That’s why it’s a good addition to OC therapy practices to consider.

Protecting At-Risk Populations

Moving beyond the obvious reasons why telehealth helps improve occupational therapy access and health outcomes, there is also the issue of providing care for immune-compromised individuals and those at-risk during events like the COVID-19 pandemic. That outcome is also supported by telehealth practices, which allow for therapy sessions that include the visual evaluation of skill performance by the therapist, in a zero contact manner. That makes it ideal for groups that need to be isolated or semi-isolated for health reasons.

Evolving Telehealth Practices

Remote care using communication technology has been developing for about a decade and a half, with most of the rapid development over the last several years. As telecommunication services and device access have become more widespread, it’s become easier and easier to offer these services to more people. Today, with the vast majority of American adults owning smartphones that can be used for video conferencing and a variety of other online communication methods, it’s easier than ever to design resources that are accessible to large groups of people, affordable, and effective at reaching the goals of the triple aim plan. The next steps require work from individual practices and insurers, though, including:

·      Investment in software platforms that allow for secure communication with patients

·      Tech support resources capable of helping individuals with troubleshooting their side of the applications used

·      Improved coverage for devices needed to support telehealth OC practices

·      Wider availability at practices and in-hospital treatment networks

There are a lot of ways to make OC and other medical treatment methods more accessible, but very few of them can reach as many people as effectively as good telehealth practices. They’re not just good for occupational therapists, but also for doctors and other practitioners looking to improve their options for patients with mobility issues, compromised immune systems, or other needs that make an in-person office visit difficult at times. While not every viable solution is viable for every practice, telehealth represents a range of methods and services that are constantly developing, so it will only become more useful as it becomes more diversified.

Get an overview of telepractice and access to other COVID-19 resources for occupational therapists and other assessment professionals at WPS.