What are our patients are asking us right now?

What are our patients are asking us right now?

“We’re working with each patient to assess whether they’re appropriate for home visits, telehealth or whether they would be best served at one of our rehab centers” comments Pope-Albright.

When Pennsylvania issued a stay at home order in March to slow the spread of COVID-19, Allied Services suspended services at its rehab centers in the community. The decision was made to protect the safety of patients and staff, to protect supplies of personal protective equipment and to allow time for staff and patient areas to be redesigned with social distancing and safety guidelines in mind.

“The most common questions we’ve heard has been ‘Are you open’” says Diana Pope-Albright, Assistant Vice President of Outpatient Operations at Allied Services. “After that, patients want to know if it’s safe to come in.”

In mid-May, Allied Services began reopening its rehab centers with new safety precautions. Today, 13 rehab centers are open and working with new and returning patients.

“We’ve been educating our patients about the safety precautions we have in place – screening, masking, social distancing, redesigning work spaces, rigorous cleaning protocols and so on – and the response has been encouraging. Our patients report that they feel safe and our staff are happy to be back to doing what the love, helping people to feel their best.”

Not all patients are comfortable leaving home to receive medical care during the pandemic, so Allied Services has introduced new ways for its patients to continue with their recovery. Depending on the patient’s comfort level, their diagnosis and the severity of their condition, they may be appropriate for home visits from a therapist. Telehealth therapy (real-time therapy conducted via a secure video connection on a tablet, laptop etc) is another way of helping patients stay on track with their rehabilitation.

“We’re working with each patient to assess whether they’re appropriate for home visits, telehealth or whether they would be best served at one of our rehab centers” comments Pope-Albright.

Here are some questions that Allied Services therapists are hearing at the moment.

Can I put my therapy on hold?

“If you are in pain or recovering from a surgery, it’s not the time to stop moving” says Pope-Albright. “If you have a functional deficit, then continuing with your therapy is important not only to improve your health and function, but also to prevent further loss of function.”

“Continuing with your therapy, whether at home or at one of our rehab centers, will allow our staff to monitor your progress and keep you on the right track.”

Is in-person therapy safe?

“We have changed the way we work, starting from when patients check in. Our rehab centers have been reconfigured to allow for social distancing between patients. All of our staff and patients have their temperature checked prior to entry and wear masks and we’re rigorously cleaning all areas. With the knowledge that some times of therapy (mainly physical therapy and occupational therapy) require the therapist to touch the patient, we’re hand washing and sanitizing in between patients. You’ll see us cleaning surfaces in between patients and hand sanitizer is available throughout the rehab centers” says Pope. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our staff and patients safe while still providing quality care.”

What kinds of PT can be done virtually?

“Telehealth therapy or virtual therapy is therapy conducted via video. The therapist and the patient can see and hear each other, allowing for the therapist to correct the patient’s movements and monitor their progress" says Pope-Albright. "While it isn’t for everyone, it can be an effective way to manage your condition without the added burden of leaving home."

Patients with orthopedic injuries are good candidates for telehealth physical therapy as video visits can be used to guide patients through strengthening, flexibility, balance, and functional mobility exercises to recover from surgery or address chronic conditions. Speech therapy patients are also good candidates for telehealth therapy!

While it’s critically important for patients with neurological diseases or injuries to have access to rehabilitation services, telehealth alone may not be the best option. In that case, a combination of telehealth therapy and in-person therapy either in the home or at our rehab centers will be considered to give them the support and monitoring they need.

At the end of the day, we’ll consider the patient’s condition, their comfort level and risk factors to determine what route will benefit them the most.

Can I really do physical therapy at home? I don’t own any gym equipment!

"Our therapists have gotten quite creative in helping patients complete their therapy at home, under their supervision. Therapy is all about improving the patient’s ability to function and complete everyday tasks, so it’s a natural step for us to find objects or spaces in the home that will allow the patient to safely and effectively participate in therapy. We’re not expecting people to run out and buy equipment! Occupational therapists have been using household objects for years! If we need a patient to walk for an extended distance, we’ll encourage them to walk outside, accompanied by a family member” says Pope-Albright.

Is at-home PT as effective as in-person visits?

“We can help patients stay active, monitor their progress, correct their movements and help them to avoid losing function” says Pope “but it won’t ever fully replace what we do in-person. That’s why we feel it’s important to offer telehealth therapy alongside other in-person options such as home visits and therapy at our rehab centers. On the plus side, telehealth allows us to see our patients’ home environment to perhaps spot hazards and challenges.”

At the end of the day, we’re going to keep working to find ways to better serve our patients and help them maintain and improve their functional ability. As therapists, that’s what we’re all about – helping our patients live healthier, fuller lives.

Learn more about therapy options during the pandemic HERE or call 570.348.1360 to speak with an admissions representative about your options.