Telehealth is a model of health service delivery that can be used by healthcare professionals to provide services utilizing technology (computers, smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices) as a means of communication.
According to Cason, Hartmann, Jacobs, and Richmond (2013), there are two ways in which Telehealth can be delivered: synchronous delivery or asynchronous delivery. Synchronous services allow for interaction between the healthcare provider and the client. It permits two-way conversation between the two and provides a client with opportunities to ask questions easily. Asynchronous telehealth includes the use of video clips or other forms of virtual communication in which the client and healthcare practitioner are not communicating with each other at the same time.
Goals of this paper are to increase promotion of occupational therapy service delivery through telehealth, to advocate for change in health related legislation regarding telehealth, and to advocate for accessibility and funding of telehealth services to reach a larger population. To accomplish these goals involvement will be required from the interdisciplinary team. The team will change depending on the reasons a client is seeking services but may include occupational therapists, physical therapists, physicians, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, vocational rehabilitation specialists, healthcare administrators, and other healthcare professionals that may work with clients and family members in using telehealth services. By increasing knowledge in this area, professionals will gain a greater understanding of how to effectively deliver telehealth services, come to understand the benefits of using telehealth, understand the importance of legislation regarding services, and increase ability to educate clients using telehealth technology in future practice.
Telehealth can be used by occupational therapists to improve services for children/ youth, in health and wellness programs, in the aging population, in mental health, rehabilitation, and other practice areas. Occupational therapy is a client-centered practice that requires clear communication between practitioner and client. When a therapist delivers telehealth services, he/she is able to do so from another geographical location. This removes barriers from the care that can be delivered to specific clientele.
Occupational therapy services such as client consultation, evaluations, intervention, and client education can be delivered through telehealth. Overall, occupational therapy services being delivered will focus on the client’s engagement in occupations, development of client skills, education and recommendation of useful adaptive equipment or modifications, and work with a client to promote healthy habits, roles, routines, and rituals (Cason et al., 2013). Using technology in these instances has an effect on cost control and health by providing access to care through these new means.
It also allows clients to receive occupational therapy when they otherwise would not have access, this is especially true for clients living in rural areas. Telehealth may be used at a nearby healthcare facility or in the client’s home to allow for greater accessibility to occupational therapy services.