15 Essential Telehealth Tools for Occupational Therapy (2020)
Looking for a list of telehealth tools for occupational therapy?
Are you a newly practicing occupational therapist or one with years of experience in the field?
Either way, there is a wide array of telehealth tools for occupational therapy that you can leverage for both with your clients AND your clients’ personal use.
Hulet Smith, Co-founder and CEO of RehabMart and a Pediatric Occupational Therapist himself, recognized the challenges of identifying the right equipment to tailor-fit them to your patients’ specific needs and abilities.
To ease you into the process, let’s start with the preparatory step of analyzing.
Analyze Your Patient’s Ability for Activities
When you analyze your patient’s current level of performing an activity, occupational therapists like you can better assess which technique, equipment, and tool would work for a client to perform a specific task.
The result of this assessment could further guide you as you progress to diagnosis and treatment.
Among the initial evaluations is Activities of Daily Living or ADL like that of Klein-Bell Activities of Daily Living Scale.
It helps you ascertain if an everyday equipment suits your patient’s ability and if you need to further modify your occupational therapy service in tandem with assistive technology.
What is Assistive Technology?
It’s a general term for assistive, rehabilitative, and adaptive devices that helps your patient do tasks that they otherwise couldn’t do WHILE increasing their safety and ease in performing the activities.
These telehealth tools for occupational therapy are essential components as you provide services to your patients.
As such, sufficient knowledge of how to select and use such equipment are elemental in your mission to improve your patient’s quality of life and independence.
Techniques and Equipment Used in Occupational Therapy
Depending on the challenge that your patient has, you can leverage diverse techniques and equipment to practice occupational therapy services.
Zana shares techniques specifically meant for occupational therapists.
Every Activity is Different
- What everyday activity does your patient has difficulty in?
- Does it involve budgeting or is it leisure-related?
- Is it about domestic or personal care routines?
- Is your patient challenged by voluntary activities that involved work?
With the help of telehealth tools for occupational therapy, your key aim is to help your patient develop or at least maintain a satisfying routine of everyday activities which will give them a sense of purpose and direction.
Ensure that your patient is in an environment conducive to your conduct of occupational therapy services.
Among the changes that you and your patient may agree upon are:
Ramps for wheelchair accessibility
Grab rails by the stairs or bedside
Raised toilet seat, bath lift, or shower seat for easy bathroom access
Cleared clutter, reorganized cupboards, or visual cues for your patient to safely move around
What are the Telehealth Tools for Occupational Therapy EVERY Therapist Should Know About?
The therapist founders of RehabMart shared the benefits of their cumulative AND hands-on clinical experiences about the most important telehealth tools for occupational therapy.
Remember, choosing the right tools helps minimize the challenge to function, as well as promote your patient’s health, safety, and overall well-being.
I attempted to categorize the list into three main groups – Ambulatory, Upper Body, and Cognitive for easier reference.
Click the site’s link above and they even offer their top pick for each tool! Ready to gear up? Here we go....
These tools focus on assisting your patient’s mobility like walking while supporting balance.
Gait Trainers – Like rolling walkers, gait trainers offer your patients support and balance while walking.
Whatever age your patient is, recommending this tool will help stabilize their relearning to walk. Gait trainers also fall under the cognitive category.
If you have patients challenged with developmental disabilities like spina bifida or cerebral palsy, the tool helps prevent flexion contractures, improve balance and posture, strengthen muscle tone, and increase muscle memory.
Standing Frames – If your patient uses wheelchairs extensively, like those suffering from quadriplegia and paraplegia, this tool comes in a variety of styles, sizes, standers, and standing aids to choose from.
It enables passive standing positions that may reduce the health risks that come with prolonged sitting, consequently improving your patient’s physical, emotional, and mental health whether your patient is a kid or an adult.
Pediatric Standers – The ‘kid version’ of standing frames, this tool is designed for growing bodies of children.
If your patient’s ambulation skills are compromised or the patient is suffering from conditions like cerebral palsy, requiring them to sit in wheelchairs for extended periods of time, the act of standing improves your patient’s circulation, respiration, digestion, elimination, bone density, and mental acuity.
The latter earns this tool a spot under the cognitive category as well.
Pediatric Walkers and Rollators – Are you working with children in different stages of walking ability or non-ability? Then this tool is among your best suggestions.
Generally, wheeled walkers and rollators are better suited if you’re looking for telehealth tools for occupational therapy services for children with upper-body weaknesses.
It provides better balance and stability as compared with standard non-wheeled walkers if your patient has the ability to pick the walker up between steps.
Hand Therapy Devices – Do you provide occupational therapy services for patients with manual arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve damage, muscle or tendon tears, and fractures?
You can help rehabilitate the recover as much hand, finger, and wrist function and strength via devices like balls, bands, weight bars, grips, and stacking cones.
You can navigate diverse applications using these tools to help your patient with hand-related disorders.
Pediatric Tables and Chairs – If you’re providing occupational therapy services to kids, you will need specially-designed tables and chairs.
Whether they need assistance in activities relating to home, school, or other settings, these tables and chairs offer appropriate supports, positioning, as well as leg and wheelchair room as they interact in schoolwork, craft projects, and therapy exercises. And yes, including play.
6-piece Hand Grip Strengthener – Great for handgrip workout and finger strength, this tool is a good choice if you’re working with patients challenged by arthritis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, or are recovering from a tendon surgery.
Whatever the fitness level your patient has, the finger-strengthening workouts help balance your patient’s grip muscle as well as expand their finger muscles.
Vestibular Therapy Devices – This is also known as Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) and is an exercise-based program that helps reduce disequilibrium and dizziness caused by a vestibular (inner ear and brain) disorder in your patients – both children and adults.
It may include swings, bolsters, balance beams, and other balance-enhancing devices to decrease imbalance discomforts and restore your patient’s balance and function
Multisensory Devices – If you’re looking for telehealth tools for occupational therapy that promote cognitive and intellectual activity, you can leverage multisensory learning tools to help your patients – from kids to adults with a sensory processing disorder – to overcome challenges that limit the stimulation of their sensory integration.
The integration of your patient’s sensory modalities – sight, touch, sound, smell, and motion – through this tool enhances coherence and connection.
Other challenges that may benefit from this tool are patients with learning disabilities, sensory processing issues, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Visual Stimulation – You can leverage this tool to help your young patients develop and improve their vision and brain function.
Visual stimulations encourage quicker visual development and increased brain growth.
Most visual tools promote healthy visual attention and stimulation, as well as have relaxing effects if your young patients are overstimulated.
HIPAA-Compliant Telehealth Platforms
If you’re an ‘old-school’ occupational therapist, you’re aware that Facetime, Google Hangouts, and Skype ARE NOT compliant with HIPAA’s regulations.
While we’re not undermining the integrity of these online applications, the tools mentioned above are best leveraged through government-regulated channels, some of which are listed below.
- Doxy.me – One of the most popular options, it is specifically designed for telehealth. Without a need for download, you just send a link to your client through email. Apart from its excellent customer service, the greater take is that it’s FREE.
- VTConnect – A secure, simple, and budget-friendly platform that has been securely connecting patients and healthcare providers since 2009. Even with its value-added features like group-session capabilities, payment integration, encrypted private messaging, e-Signature document sharing, and excellent reporting, it is easy to set up and simple to use. \On top of that, it offers a live-support team ready to assist you. Its first month of usage is free.
- VSee – The first HIPAA-compliant telehealth application, it has been used by NASA and the Navy Seals. It claims to be the World’s Largest Video Telemedicine Platform and has video tutorials, success stories, and a choice of pricing tiers
- Thea-Link – Founded by two therapists and a technology expert, it was specifically built for mental-health providers. I’m particularly intrigued by its online ‘waiting room’ where your clients can wait for their session turn. $30 a month starts its tiered pricing scheme.
- WeCounsel – Its emphasis is toward the behavioral health field, and it surpasses industry encryption standards. Here’s something that might make you read back twice – it offers a 30-day free trial! From there, plans start at $25 a month.
A Telehealth Tool for Everyone
In this trying time of the pandemic COVID-19 when your usual hands-on practice as an occupational therapist becomes off-limits, knowing the purpose of assistive technology via HIPPA-compliant telehealth platforms is a crucial element in your ‘toolbox’ as an occupational therapist.
The telehealth tools for occupational therapy mentioned above are but a few of the solutions that you can offer to your diverse clientele.
As an occupational therapist, aim to remain informed of the developments in this technology – and be innovative in its use while having a high regard for your patients’ safety and improvement.
Thanks for reading!