Occupational Therapy, Technology, Healthcare Access and Telehealth

As we close out a month of celebrating Occupational Therapy 2020 during the COVID 19 crisis, we want to take time to reflect on some of the positive changes this unprecedented event has ushered in.  For the past 6-8 weeks, life has been something very different for all of us.  We have been told to “stay at home”, meaning more time with families, including meals, schooling, and leisure.  We have assumed new roles we really had not considered, such as substitute teachers and adapted to established roles with “new” ways of doing things, such as virtual meetings at work or social happy hours.  We gained new knowledge such as the difference between bacteria and a virus and how viruses need a host to survive.  We learned new skills, how to don/doff PPE, and even how to make homemade masks.  Some of us developed our volunteer roles to make those masks and some unlocked their creative spirit through other forms of art or doing.

Health care delivery also shifted in a much-needed way with a focus on expanding access to services while keeping patients or clients safe in their own environment through the use of modern technology.  Telehealth has been around for many years, making a slow appearance, but now has come to be a common offering many by many practitioners. COVID 19 ushered in the mass use of telehealth services across the country, ranging from telephone touch base visits to virtual visits with telephone and video capability.  Regulatory bodies and insurance companies relaxed their standards and opened up ways to make sure the process was still confidential and could also be billed by more providers.  Patients could stay at home, log in to an appointment, and continue to receive the great healthcare they expect and received through an in-person visit, in a more intimate and less distracting setting.

Washington University Occupational Therapy has been a part of the movement.  We have used telehealth to help patients develop cognitive, motor, and performance skills; use assistive technology, adapt techniques to complete daily needed tasks; modify work, home, or school environments; and create health-promoting habits and routines. We’re able to reach those who live distances or those who live nearby but have transportation challenges.  By removing access barriers and reducing our turn-around time to receive OT services, we are able to able to help our patients make improvements in the areas of occupational performance, adaptation, health and wellness, chronic disease management, health promotion, and quality of life.  While not every intervention we offer lends itself to telehealth or virtual visits, many do, and often a combination of in-person and virtual is very effective and convenient for our patients.  In this way, we are achieving our goals of improving access, delivering great care, and reducing overall costs via the streamlined use of telehealth.

We are very excited to be able to continue these services moving forward.  We know we offer services that others do not and are thrilled to be able to expand to reach more people who we know will benefit from what we have to offer. Take a look at our adult and pediatric services.