In “Telehealth And Patient Engagement,” in the October 2020 issue, John T. Brinkmann, MA, CPO/L, FAAOP(D), wrote about the pandemic’s impact on patient care in relation to telemedicine visits. “Almost a decade ago, a mobile phone app was developed to facilitate collaboration between individuals wearing prostheses and their prosthetists,” he wrote. “Studies in other medical disciplines have demonstrated the usefulness of these technologies for clinical practices that are common within O&P, such as neurological examination, kinematic gait analysis, goniometric measurement, and orthopedic functional assessment.” His focus was on how practitioners’ telehealth practices could affect the involvement of patients in their own care.
Earlier last year, in the early stages of pandemic shut-downs, Judith Phillips Otto explored what was possible for orthotists and prosthetists to perform their patient care services remotely. (“Spanning Social Distancing: Telehealth In O&P Gets A Jump Start,” June 2020.) That feature addressed the position of the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics, and Pedorthics that “due to the hands-on nature of O&P care, providers must recognize that elements of the services they provide cannot be accomplished virtually.” Our experts warned then that the benefits of telehealth don’t come without risks.
Now this month, a medical device and diagnostic industry source, MD+DI Online, shared “The Double-Edged Sword of the Telemedicine Boom,” in which Amanda Pedersen makes some points for O&P practitioners to consider. Along with the benefits of telemedicine, Pedersen found potential negatives to the changes, the most concerning being that “the rapid adoption of telehealth technologies is the digital divide in access to telemedicine services.”
Federal agencies and the American Medical Association (AMA) are working on policies to ensure that minority communities, people living in underserved rural and urban areas, older adults, and people with disabilities can benefit from the growth in telehealth opportunities.
“So many people have been stuck on the sidelines as telehealth has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must make sure they are not left behind as telehealth moves forward. We must recognize that broadband internet access is a social determinant of health,” said David Aizuss, MD, a member of the AMA board of trustees.
Considering the whole of the O&P patient population, the voices of practitioners and business owners may be useful additions to help bring everyone along.
To read more about the history of telemedicine in O&P, visit “Across The State or Around The World: Telerehabilitation Technologies Cover The Distance” from 2016.