The coronavirus crisis and associated lockdown measures have drastically changed the way rehabilitation service providers can support their clients. As a result, they’ve needed to adapt the way they work to make sure the people that need their support are still getting it.
Whether it’s a company or a charity, everyone’s had to make significant changes, and the rehabilitation services industry is no exception. How have these organisations made these changes, and what changes might they keep when everything returns to normal?
We gathered rehabilitation experts from both the statutory and private sector to share their experiences of how the crisis has affected the way they provide their services, and what they think the long term impact will be. The findings were published in a whitepaper that forms part of a series of roundtable events in response to our UK Powerhouse Findings.
Read the full report here Changes in the right direction
The complete shutdown of face-to-face assessments for clients undergoing rehabilitation came almost as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. In their place came virtual appointments, with rehabilitation services offering online sessions within weeks of lockdown starting.
This was only possible due to the high percentage of people that have adopted technology use in the UK, with 90% of adults and 99% of 16-34 year olds being regular internet users. These young, tech savvy clients who were “raised” online have shown considerable enthusiasm and interest for these virtual sessions.
"For some clients, online sessions can work very well. They tend to be the ones who embrace technology – particularly some of the younger brain-injury patients can respond well to this kind of treatment." – Nicola Irwin, Managing Director, Harrison Associates.
Clients and providers who live and work in rural areas have also welcomed this new way of operating. One of the major advantages of virtual sessions is the increased feeling of connection – time that would have been spent travelling is allowing more time for communication. For the service providers themselves, their time is also being put to better use since they can engage with more patients than they could before.
Having more time doesn’t only mean service providers can access more patients – they can also think more holistically about how they work. Virtual assessment and discussions allow more time to be spent on getting a thorough understanding of an individual client’s requirements. Rather than a single therapist completing a standalone assessment, specialists from other disciplines or organisations can be brought into the virtual discussion much earlier, which enables issues to be identified at an earlier stage. As a result, rehabilitation plans can be put into action at an accelerated rate.
Virtually impossible for everything to be ok
Though there are many positive aspects to the birth of the virtual assessment, we must also acknowledge it has some downfalls, too. Virtual rehabilitation sessions aren’t right for everyone, and some providers still have commitments to physical assessments.
Matthew Hughes, Managing Director for Dorset Orthopaedics, said "There's no escaping the fact you need to be hands on with people to see what their body can do, what prosthetics they have, and how they’re using them."
One of our experts shared a story of a patient who was unable to get out of bed. After a home visit from an occupational therapist, the patient was sitting in her conservatory. Through remote means, this wouldn’t have been possible – reminding us that clients must always have their needs considered individually.
Not all patients are completely comfortable with using technology, either. Careful consideration needs to be given when using technology with clients who are particularly vulnerable; and also on whether clients have capacity to consent to exchange of information and service provision via remote means.
Another key benefit of the traditional face-to-face service is that it’s easier to identify potential safeguarding issues and vulnerabilities. Spider senses don’t tingle in quite the same way over a virtual platform – without physically being present, there’s a risk that key issues and influences may be missed, and wellbeing taken quite literally at face value.
“Clients may paint a good picture, but you can’t see what’s being hidden when you’re not there. Sometimes you feel that things aren’t ringing true. You’ll not get that feeling if you’re not in the environment.” – Angela Kerr, Managing Director, AKA Case Management, Chair of BABICM & Chair of IRCM
Focusing on the positives in tough times
Perhaps the biggest change of all is the way statutory providers and the NHS have stepped up and embraced technology and virtual platforms. They’re both delivering services using these methods, but also communicating with each other and outside agencies. Multi-disciplinary teams are being set up in record time and decision-making is much easier to track with virtual calls and updates. This change in provision, in any other circumstance, would have taken far longer to implement.
It must also be pointed out that communications hasn’t improved across all areas of the country. There’s been some experience of early discharge before patients have reached their full potential, but it could be argued that this is inevitable in view of the need to vacate beds in hospitals.
We may not be completely sure what a post-pandemic future looks like for rehabilitation services but there is little doubt that the increased reliance on technology is here to stay.
UK Powerhouse is our quarterly economic briefing looking at regional growth around the United Kingdom. Published in partnership with economic think tank Cebr, it’s built around a city tracker ranking that helps you spot investment opportunities, or scout new areas for expansion. Each briefing centres on a specific sector or theme. Our latest edition delves into the effects of coronavirus on different industry sectors, and how different UK regions are coping.
The series covers the following sectors:
Supply chain and Logistics (including manufacturing and consumer)
Find out more about UK Powerhouse
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