Transitioning Patients Between Telehealth and In-Person Services During COVID-19
Jessica K. Lynn Hatfield, MS, OTR/L, SIPT, CKTP
The therapy community has answered the call to action for Telehealth. We have essentially built brand-new businesses overnight to meet the ongoing needs of the people we serve. Therapist have risen to the occasion. They have demonstrated a willingness to try something new and an intention to master their trade through a new setting to help others. Kudos to you all for navigating all the unexpected things that have come up through this journey!
We are now in conversations to resume in-person services. Each state has difference guidance. Some states never closed outpatient services; some have different PPE requirements. Know your state guidance and what is best practice during this time for your setting.
You may have people who have chosen not to participate in Telehealth, but for whom this would be the most appropriate platform to receive services. Having a conversation with them about their perceived barriers could make a big difference. Ask if they are willing to explore some solutions with you. If they are willing, make a list of barriers and ask them for solutions. You can ask guiding questions like, What has worked in the past for situations like this? Create a context of your intention for them, whether it’s helping them reduce stress, helping their child develop, or enabling their whole family to be living a life they love. Tell them what it is you want for them and their life. Ask if they are willing to try something new—or try something again—to get there.
Some families are so excited to be back in your clinic! After you have established your reopening plan and new procedures based on your state guidelines, communicate these to families. Use every means possible: social media, website, newsletter, phone calls, emails, etc. Point parents to a centralized place that can be updated for your new procedures. It is important to communicate how you are keeping families safe during in-person services.
Consider resources for helping children through the new aspects of in-person services, such as wearing a mask, seeing other people wearing masks, etc.
Practice Wearing a Mask
- Identify the length of time clients will need to wear this for therapy and how long they will tolerate it now.
- Begin practicing just under their tolerance. It might be 10 minutes or 10 seconds.
- Set a timer for the length of your first practice.
- Find something fun to do that the child likes.
- Watch a video for that amount of time.
- Increase your practice time daily until they’re about to tolerate a whole session length.
- Pair practicing with other tactile desensitizing therapeutic interventions.
Videos About Masks
- Wearing a Mask Social Story by ASERT
- Wearing a Mask by Autism Little Learners
- COVID-19 Social Story about Symptoms and Hygiene by Ayodele Jones
- Seeing Other People Wear Masks
- Wearing a mask and gloves
Resources for Making a Mask
- Sewing a kids mask
- No-sew kids mask
- Another sewn kids mask
- If your child receives speech therapy, you may consider making them a mask offering clear visibility of their mouth movements, like this one.
Whether you are providing Telehealth services or are head to toe in PPE providing in-person services, do not forget to put the fun into your interventions!