The basics of telehealth:
Due to a global pandemic, school systems have temporarily suspended classes and the CDC is recommending social distancing (6 feet) between people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This created an area of challenge for occupational therapists across the nation with a pediatric population—how do we deliver service without exposing our vulnerable clients to COVID-19?
Teletherapy or telehealth is a growing field that has been in the spotlight suddenly as face-to-face interactions become increasingly more risky. The American Occupational Therapy Association defines telehealth as “the application of evaluative, consultative, preventative and therapeutic services delivered through information and communication technology.” In plain language, it’s the same therapy services delivered through a platform such as Google Meetup or Zoom with a facilitator on the end of the client being coached through the activities to prove the support that the therapist typically would live.
A typical telehealth session follows the same format as an in-person session with a few key exceptions—you must plan ahead with more activities than you think will fill the time, you must arrange the time/platform with the parents, and you might need to allow for a few minutes at the start of the session for the child to show you around their house or a new toy/game/item.
Week One Areas of Challenge: figuring out a strong, clear connection platform. Because everyone was trying to access video chat at a higher rate than before, platforms varied in their ability to handle the traffic. Clocktree, Zoom, Google Meetup, and doxy.me were all trialed, with Google Meetup coming out as the most secure with the clearest and most consistent video connection.
Week One Areas of Success: partnering with a strong facilitator on the end of the child is a key component to a successful session. Determining the proper amount of time for a telehealth session and recognizing that it may be smaller than the time you can have full engagement in person. The 30-45 minutes range seems to be most appropriate for elementary-aged children.