Today, you can order groceries online and have them delivered to your door. You can take a picture of your living room and a professional designer will decorate it without ever stepping foot in your home. Through the emerging development of telehealth, you can also virtually see a doctor for a common cold…AND…see a Certified Hand Therapist for common hand and arm conditions.
What is online hand therapy?
One of the trending topics of telehealth is the development of subspecialties such as telerehabilitation. Telerehabilitation is a modern form of speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy services delivered through a secure and private video conferencing platform. Online hand therapy is a form of telerehabilitation.
How can hand therapy be delivered online?
Traditionally, hand therapy is provided in person either at home or in a clinic. If you have a computer or mobile device, you can be evaluated to see if online hand therapy is right for your injury or condition. During a telerehabilitation session, a certified hand therapist would spend time listening to your functional goals, educating you on interventions to achieve those goals, demonstrating those interventions, and finally watching you perform the recommended interventions. All of this is delivered through a one-on-one online hand therapy session. The goal of hand therapy is to provide you with the interventions you need to meet your goals. This is achievable regardless of the delivery method.
What are the advantages of online hand therapy?
Convenience: If you dislike driving to therapy appointments 2 or 3 times a week, sitting in waiting rooms, or waiting for the next piece of equipment to become available, consider online hand therapy.
Affordable care: You may be familiar with the rising costs of out-of-pocket expenses and high deductibles. Since there are minimal overhead costs, you can expect to pay less per visit.
Access: There are approximately 6,400 certified hand therapists in the United States, many of which reside in larger cities. Online hand therapy can give you access to a specialist for your hand or arm condition regardless of your location.
One-on-one care: If you have been to therapy recently, you are familiar with busy clinics and therapists bouncing between patients. With online hand therapy, you get quality one-on-one time to talk with your hand therapist about your goals.
What are the disadvantages of online hand therapy?
Technology problems: There is a good chance you could have video, audio, or internet connection glitches which can affect your treatment session.
Misguided information: If you or your hand therapist are unable to adequately communicate issues such as your symptoms, pain, exercises, etc., then there is a potential for important information about your condition to be misunderstood. This could happen during in-person sessions as well.
Limited resources: During a treatment session, you may need in-person resources commonly distributed by certified hand therapist such as exercise bands, putty, scar pad, etc. By receiving online hand therapy, you will not have immediate access to these items.
Online hand therapy cannot take the place of seeing a hand therapist in person. However, it is a great alternative if you are seeking self-treatment and want convenient, expert advice for your hand or arm condition.
If you are interested in telerehabilitation, contact a hand surgeon or hand therapist, and ask if they offer online hand services. The practice of telerehabilitation and online hand therapy is evolving. Expect to be able to access these services more easily in the future.
Michelle Coil, MOT, OTR, CHT, PYT, CEAS is a Certified Hand Therapist and a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists.