Clinical telerehabilitation: applications for physiatrists

PM R. 2011 Jul;3(7):647-56; quiz 656. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2011.02.024.


Telemedicine offers an innovative approach to increase access to rehabilitation medicine services for patients who live in areas where physiatrists are scarce or absent. This article reviews the current status of telerehabilitation services delivered through real-time videoconferencing to provide support, assessment, and interventions to individuals with impairments or disabilities. A literature review demonstrates various uses of telerehabilitation by physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, audiologists, recreational therapists, neuropsychologists, nurses, other physician specialists, and physiatrists. We also provide more in-depth examples of 2 current programs that involve physiatrists: One furnishes telerehabilitation services to adult stroke survivors, and the other addresses the special health care needs of children with developmental disabilities. We discuss the benefits of using telemedicine via real-time videoconferencing to care for individuals with disabilities, outline the challenges of successfully implementing a physiatric telerehabilitation program, and finish with a list of potential applications for physiatrists interested in incorporating telemedicine into their practice. Further investigation of the use of telehealth technologies to deliver physiatric services, care coordination, and education is needed. We recommend that our professional societies develop and publish guidelines to facilitate development and use of telerehabilitation technologies to increase access to physiatric services.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Developmental Disabilities / rehabilitation
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine / methods*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Videoconferencing