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‘First of its kind’ resource guides health practitioners through remote assessment for people with physical conditions

Patient looking at laptop

The University of Plymouth has launched a free online learning resource to enhance the knowledge and skills of practitioners providing appointments for people with physical impairments by video conference or phone.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Medical Research Council, the Telerehab toolkit provides information to assist practitioners in the delivery of effective remote assessments; empowering health and social care professionals and supporting people with conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, as well as those recovering from COVID-19.

Patient looking at laptop The toolkit includes information about what patients can expect from remote appointments, digital skills advice for patients and practitioners, and telerehab resources for practitioners to help them decide what assessments can be done remotely and, if so, how to carry out appointments successfully.

The content is informed by a large project team, which includes clinicians from University Hospitals Plymouth, and was put together based on literature searches, discussions with over 100 clinicians, students, patients and their families, and a survey of 247 UK health and social care practitioners.

While initially set up in response to COVID-19, the resource is designed for both now and in the future, as the NHS works towards net zero, and healthcare delivery adapts to offer person-centred care. It is also hoped to facilitate efficient management of the growing number and backlog of people requiring rehabilitation, and share learning about best practice for telerehabilitation within ‘real-life’ contexts to inform future practice.

Jenny Freeman, project lead and Professor of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation at the University of Plymouth, explained: “This toolkit isn’t taking away from the fact that there will be some appointments that still need to be done in person, such as complex physical assessments or communicating difficult news. But many consultations, such as simple follow-ups about treatment plans or reviews of home-based adaptions, can be done remotely, meaning less hassle and stress for the patient as they don’t have to travel, and a more sustainable approach for the practitioner.

“The Telerehab toolkit is the first resource of its kind to specifically focus on assessment of movement impairments, and our goal is to ensure that all practitioners – from physiotherapists to dietitians – who work with people with physical disabilities are aware of the benefits it offers. COVID-19 might have catalysed its creation, but technology really can help patients, so it’s important to get remote delivery right both now and in the future.”

The full list of partners who contributed to the Telerehab toolkit’s creation are:

  • University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
  • Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust
  • Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Livewell Southwest Community Hospitals
  • Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
  • Cornwall Council
  • Plymouth Community Homes
  • The University of Southampton
  • The University of Warwick

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