Qualitative exploration of physical therapists' experiences providing telehealth physical therapy during COVID-19

Neta Roitenberg, Noa Ben-Ami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Physical therapists are trained to provide treatment to patients through a mixture of strategies. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in social distancing restrictions, and physical therapists, some without previous experience, adopted telehealth physical therapy modalities to treat their patients. Objectives: The objective of this study was to explore physical therapists’ experiences of providing telehealth physical therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design and Methods: A multisite qualitative semi-structured interview study was conducted. Seventeen physical therapists were interviewed by videoconference or by phone, and the interviews were transcribed and analyzed thematically. Results: Three main themes emerged from the study. Firstly, physical therapists experienced professional challenges with diagnosing and treating patients hands-off and becoming more verbal. Secondly, telehealth physical therapy was perceived as not feasible or effective for certain patients, attesting to the digital care divide. Lastly, participants' perceptions of patient-therapist communication varied, expressing both communicative advantages and challenges. Conclusions: Physical therapists who practiced telehealth physical therapy during the COVID-19 period experienced information and communication technology as professionally challenging. Physical therapists adapted positively to the use of telehealth physical therapy but perceived that not every patient could benefit from it. The study emphasized the need for a better understanding of physical therapists’ hands-off skills for practicing telehealth physical therapy and considers the need to establish a patient classification for telehealth physical therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102789
JournalMusculoskeletal Science and Practice
Volume66
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Physical therapy
  • Qualitative
  • Telehealth

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