Pros and Cons of Pediatric Telehealth Occupational Therapy for Parents

About Telehealth for Pediatric OT

Telehealth, or the use of technology to deliver health care remotely, can be an effective way to provide pediatric occupational therapy services. Research has shown that telehealth can be effective in the delivery of occupational therapy services for children.((Önal, G., Güney, G., Gün, F., & Huri, M. (2021). Telehealth in paediatric occupational therapy: a scoping review. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 28(7), 1-16.))

One study interviewed parents about their perspectives of occupational therapy via telehealth. The themes that emerged included (1) Compatibility with Everyday Life, (2) Collaborative Relationship, and (3) Parent Empowerment. Parents expressed how telehealth fit within their daily lives, how telehealth supported a collaborative relationship with the occupational therapist, and how the content of the intervention built a sense of empowerment.((Wallisch, A., Little, L., Pope, E., & Dunn, W. (2019). Parent perspectives of an occupational therapy telehealth intervention. International journal of telerehabilitation, 11(1), 15.))

Strengths

Telehealth allows for therapy sessions to take place remotely, which can be beneficial for children who have difficulty traveling to therapy appointments or for families who live in rural or underserved areas. This can make it easier to access services, and can also help to reduce the number of missed appointments.

In terms of conditions, telehealth can be especially beneficial for children with chronic conditions, such as cerebral palsy, or children who have difficulty traveling to therapy appointments. Telehealth can also be beneficial for children with complex needs, such as those with multiple diagnoses or seziures, who require frequent therapy sessions.

Another important aspect to consider is that telehealth can also be beneficial for children who have difficulty with social interactions, such as children with autism or social anxiety, as it may make them feel more comfortable and less anxious by allowing them to be in their natural environment, e.g., at home.

Telehealth also allows for real-time observation of the child during therapy, which can help the therapist to better understand the child’s abilities and difficulties. This can help the therapist to make more accurate assessments and to tailor therapy to the child’s specific needs. It allows parents to drop-in and watch or participate as well.

Telehealth can also allow for more frequent therapy sessions, which can help to improve outcomes. Additionally, telehealth can allow for greater flexibility in scheduling, which can help to accommodate busy families by not taking into account travel and commute times.

Telehealth can also provide opportunities for parent education and training, which can help to support the child’s progress and carryover of skills learned in therapy to the home and community setting. This is because sessions can take place in the home, in the natural environment.

Limitations

Telehealth should not be the only form of therapy provided and should be integrated with other forms of therapy, where possible. Telehealth can be a valuable tool to complement in-person therapy, but it’s not a replacement for in-person therapy when it’s needed.

Telehealth sessions may not be covered by insurance or may be covered at a lower rate, so it’s important to check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage. Research ahead of time.

Telehealth is not suitable for all children and all conditions, so it’s important to work with a qualified therapist who has experience with telehealth, and can provide appropriate care for your child’s needs. Have a list of questions to ask ahead of time. Note that there are certain limitations to telehealth that may affect the quality of therapy. For example, it can be more difficult to provide hands-on interventions and to observe the child’s movements and interactions in the physical environment.

Telehealth sessions require appropriate technology and internet connection. It’s important to ensure that the child and family have access to the necessary equipment, such as a computer or tablet with a camera and microphone, and that the internet connection is stable enough to support a telehealth session. Ensure that the child is comfortable with using technology and that they are able to participate in the session. It’s important to do a test run to make sure that everything is working properly before the actual session.

Conclusion

Many occupational therapists have adapted telehealth by using video demonstrations and providing guidance and support through verbal and visual cues to help compensate for these limitations. And also, many therapists use telehealth as a supplement to in-person therapy, not as a replacement for it.

Overall, telehealth can be an effective way to provide pediatric occupational therapy services, but it’s important to work closely with a qualified therapist, consider the child’s specific needs, and ensure that the appropriate technology and internet connection are available. It’s also important to ensure that telehealth is integrated with other forms of therapy and not used as a replacement for in-person therapy when it’s needed.