Randomised Controlled Trial Protocol

Experiences and effects of telerehabilitation services for physiotherapy outpatients in a resource-constrained public health set-up in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic: A proposal

Humairaa Ebrahim, Prithi Pillay-Jayaraman, Yehudit Leibovitz, Nirvashi Naidoo, Tracey Bulmer, Bulelwa Bull, Sandy Lord, Monique M. Keller
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 77, No 1 | a1528 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v77i1.1528 | © 2021 Humairaa Ebrahim, Prithi Pillay-Jayaraman, Yehudit Leibovitz, Nirvashi Naidoo, Tracey Bulmer, Bulelwa Bull, Sandy Lord, Monique M. Keller | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 September 2020 | Published: 30 June 2021

About the author(s)

Humairaa Ebrahim, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa
Prithi Pillay-Jayaraman, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa; and, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Therapeutic Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Yehudit Leibovitz, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nirvashi Naidoo, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa
Tracey Bulmer, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa
Bulelwa Bull, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sandy Lord, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Therapeutic Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Monique M. Keller, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Therapeutic Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: The announcement of a national lockdown in South Africa had country-wide impact on the delivery of health services. Strategies included prioritisation of patients and protecting patients who were considered at risk, resulting in the need for cancellation and temporary termination of many outpatient therapy services. This necessitated the urgent need to come up with a way of delivering physiotherapy rehabilitation services to patients in a more non-traditional format. Telerehabilitation allows for the provision of services by using electronic communication, thus ensuring that patients are still able to access necessary rehabilitation services.

Methods/design: This is a prospective, mixed method study with participants recruited from the outpatient physiotherapy department of Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH). Telerehabilitation services will be provided via the patients’ preferred method of communication. On discharge, participants and therapists will be asked about their experiences of telerehabilitation.

Discussion: Because of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, patients are unable to receive traditional face-to-face physiotherapy services. Telerehabilitation offers a suitable alternative to treatment, but the feasibility, outcome and experiences of offering these services in the public health system have not been studied.

Conclusion: This study will determine whether telerehabilitation is a feasible service that can be offered in the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as post-pandemic, to enable physiotherapists to access those patients who are often unable to attend physiotherapy because of transport costs and various other reasons for non-attendance.

Clinical implications: The results of this study may indicate a way of managing patients in situations where face to face therapy cannot be undertaken.

Protocol identification: Pan African Clinical Trial Registry, PACTR202103637993156.


Keywords

physiotherapy; telerehabilitation; orthopaedics; neuromusculoskeletal; paediatrics; COVID-19 pandemic

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