Clinicians’ Experiences of Implementing a Telerehabilitation Toolkit During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Qualitative Descriptive Study

JMIR Rehabil Assist Technol. 2023 Mar 10;10:e44591. doi: 10.2196/44591.


BACKGROUND: Although the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a rapid implementation and scale-up of telehealth for patients in need of rehabilitation, an overall slower scaling up to telerehabilitation has been documented.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to understand experiences of implementing telerehabilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as using the Toronto Rehab Telerehab Toolkit from the perspective of rehabilitation professionals across Canada and internationally.

METHODS: The study adopted a qualitative descriptive approach that consisted of telephone- or videoconference-supported interviews and focus groups. Participants included rehabilitation providers as well as health care leaders who had used the Toronto Rehab Telerehab Toolkit. Each participant took part in a semi-structured interview or focus group, lasting approximately 30-40 minutes. Thematic analysis was used to understand the barriers and enablers of providing telerehabilitation and implementing the Toronto Rehab Telerehab Toolkit. Three members of the research team independently analyzed a set of the same transcripts and met after each set to discuss their analysis.

RESULTS: A total of 22 participants participated, and 7 interviews and 4 focus groups were included. The data of participants were collected from both Canadian (Alberta, New Brunswick, and Ontario) and international sites (Australia, Greece, and South Korea). A total of 11 sites were represented, 5 of which focused on neurological rehabilitation. Participants included health care providers (ie, physicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, and social workers), managers and system leaders, as well as research and education professionals. Overall, 4 themes were identified including (1) implementation considerations for telerehabilitation, encompassing 2 subthemes of “infrastructure, equipment, and space” and “leadership and organizational support”; (2) innovations developed as a result of telerehabilitation; (3) the toolkit as a catalyst for implementing telerehabilitation; and (4) recommendations for improving the toolkit.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this qualitative study confirm some of the previously identified experiences with implementing telerehabilitation, but from the perspective of Canadian and international rehabilitation providers and leaders. These findings include the importance of adequate infrastructure, equipment, and space; the key role of organizational or leadership support in adopting telerehabilitation; and availing resources to implement it. Importantly, participants in our study described the toolkit as an important resource to broker networking opportunities and highlighted the need to pivot to telerehabilitation, especially early in the pandemic. Findings from this study will be used to improve the next iteration of the toolkit (Toolkit 2.0) to promote safe, accessible, and effective telerehabilitation to those patients in need in the future.

PMID:36897634 | DOI:10.2196/44591


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