The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we do things, people around the globe are adapting to newer ways, and technology is making a serious inroad into our daily activities. Psychotherapy is one field where the impact of technology will be greatly felt as we gradually move into the new normal.
Some new ways we have adapted include social distancing, wearing of facemasks, regular washing of hands, and working from home. There is also the call to reduce how we handle currencies based on the fact that the coronavirus can exist on banknotes for up to 28 days, according to the study conducted by researchers at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP).
Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the field of psychotherapy has witnessed some form of technological integration. We have online therapy like Mind-Diagnostics also known as Web therapy, telepsychology, e-therapy, distance therapy, or internet therapy.
The healthcare industry generally has been grappling with the introduction of telemedicine, which is the use of technology that enables remote healthcare (telehealth). The essence is to make it possible for medical practitioners to attend to patients whenever the need arises, without the necessity for the patient to be physically present by using a computer or smartphone. This is more so taking into consideration that an estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness in a given year.
COVID-19 has, however, made the integration of technology into physiotherapy and the healthcare industry at large a necessity. The following are four ways technology can be beneficial to physiotherapy.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The medical industry is undergoing a revolution. The integration of machines that display AI capabilities is on a high scale.
It is now common to see patients who put on wearables that gather data. Machines then interpret the gathered data and learn from it the choices that can be made.
AI can also be deployed by therapists into identifying people whose cases can become complicated if not given urgent attention. AI will also go a long way into making physiotherapy more efficient through the automation of tasks as well as recommending patients to take the necessary steps in ensuring health benefits, it will also offer them the opportunity to self-care.
With AI, there will be a change in the way patients carry out prescribed home exercises. Using the camera that is installed on your phone, it becomes relatively easy to videotape and upload your exercises, this will enhance prompt feedback indicating if you have performed your exercises correctly or not.
You don’t need to attend a live session to receive coaching cues about the way and manner you can adjust your movements correctly.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality (VR) is another technological advancement that when deployed, has immense therapeutic benefits. With VR technology, a psychotherapist can design a 3D synthetic environment created by computer graphics to practice and monitor repetitive motions and provide feedback to guide the rehabilitation process.
This will enable rehabilitation for specific motor-learning tasks of patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries. What you will be expected to re-learn will include the movement of hands, upper and lower limbs, unilateral, and bilateral movement.
The immersive nature of the simulated environment allows you to completely focus on the training process.
There is upward growth in assistive and therapeutic robotic devices, and this includes robots that can help a patient to rehabilitate from grave conditions like strokes. Rehabilitation robots play a pivotal role in people with impediments, they can recover mobility, strength, coordination, and quality of life at the end of the treatment.
These robots are made to learn the state of individual patients, who are recuperating from strokes, brain, spinal cord injuries, neurobehavioral, or neuromuscular diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). They include exoskeleton devices, which are wearable devices that assist the user, employ sensors to examine human movement and positioning.
Assistive robotic devices have come to play a very important role not only as clinical interventions but also as improvement assessments. These devices are technological advancements that can be integrated into psychotherapy to help in the management of treatment planning and goal setting.
How physiotherapists used to increase their knowledge was to attend to more patients, the “triple aim” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), has, however, ensured that providers are now accountable for the quality of their patient outcomes. Physiotherapists must now show that they are improving outcomes, not just providing more services.
The only way they can do this effectively is by using big data to create predictive analytics in rehabilitation. They will be able to analyze both your current and historic data to predict possible future outcomes.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), in a release titled “The Power of Predictive Analytics, “explores how you can use yesterday’s patient data to make informed case decisions today”. What this simply translates to is that therapists will be able to use the national average of treatment outcomes as a benchmark by which to measure the progress of their patients.
This will inform when a therapist is on the right track with a treatment plan and when there is the need to improvise.
The hindsight therapists gain from big data increases their exposure to measurable outcomes in rehabilitation, this will enable them to find more creative ways to help their patients accomplish their goals quicker and efficiently. Predictive analytics and big data have given therapists ample opportunity to become better in their output as well as improve care efficiency.