Recovering from an injury or surgery requires a lot of patience and perseverance. Physical and occupational therapists are keenly familiar with the physical and emotional struggle that patients undergo in trying to find a way back to their former activities. No patient’s journey is the same, and therapists need to adopt an integrated approach to case management that will optimize their ability to help individual patients with rehabilitation. Here are 4 simple but effective things that you can do to improve patient engagement and individual outcomes.
1. Understand Preexisting Conditions
When someone is recovering from an injury, it’s important to understand any preexisting conditions that may affect how he or she is affected by the injury and how his or her recovery may variate from others’. For example, if someone has a preexisting condition that limits his or her mobility, the effect of an injury affecting the same area or a proximate area will be different than it would be for another person who does not have the same preexisting condition. The guidelines and exercises that are applied to help a patient rehabilitate an injury may need to be modified accordingly.
2. Enhance and Expand Patient Engagement with Virtual Visits
When a patient’s ability to see you is restricted by other commitments such as work or family, he or she may be less likely to stay engaged in care. Telehealth occupational therapy offers a solution for these patients by making access to care less onerous. You can make virtual visits as functional as an in-person visit by using a carefully guided approach to instruct patients about exercises or stretches just as you would if they were in your office. After an initial evaluation, you can help your patients order any type of equipment that they will need for in-home rehabilitation. One of the benefits of telehealth therapy is that you’ll be able to connect with a broader base of patients rather than being strictly limited by geographic proximity. In turn, patients derive the benefit of being able to get help from a provider who they feel is adequately attentive and experienced rather than being relegated to working with whoever is located nearest to them regardless of his or her knowledge or experience. This can improve people’s outlook and expectations about their treatment program and give them a more positive mindset towards achieving success.
3. Help Set Reasonable Goals and Timelines
When you’re working with patients who are eager to resume their normal daily activities, it’s important to help them set reasonable occupational therapy goals. Some people expect that their abilities to perform regular activities will be equal to their previous capabilities before their injury or surgery. They become frustrated when faced with slow recovery time, or they may be resistant to adapting how they go about their activities. You need to help patients accept that their recovery timeline may be considerable and isn’t necessarily determinate.
4. Be Supportive About Setbacks
The road to recovery isn’t always a straight and continuous forward-moving direction. Aggravating an injury can occur as a result of even small movements or exertions. When this occurs, it’s important that you don’t charge a patient with blame or responsibility. Moreover, it’s imperative that you not attribute a setback to a lack of effort or physical weakness. Explain that these things happen, and don’t perseverate about what somebody did wrong. While it’s necessary to identify possible causes for a setback so as to help a patient avoid repeating it in the future, the best way to improve a patient’s attitude about a setback is to focus on strategies to avoid its recurrence.