Responding to an Emerging Need: Implementing Telehealth in Acute Hospital Rehabilitation

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2021 Sep;102(9):1840-1847. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2021.05.006. Epub 2021 Jun 4.


This article outlines a multidisciplinary approach to implementing a telehealth program in the acute care hospital setting during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Telehealth has been used in many practice areas, although it can be a particular challenge to establish in an acute care hospital given the fast-paced environment. However, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique situation. In-person treatment interactions became increasingly high risk for both patient and provider, and there was an emerging need to conserve personal protective equipment and limit exposure. In response to these developments, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists treating an adult population turned to telehealth to supplement in-person treatment. This article outlines the clinical reasoning and practical application to implementing a telehealth program in an acute care hospital and includes regulations, identified successful strategies, barriers, considerations, decision-making algorithms, and discipline-specific interventions.

Keywords: COVID-19; Rehabilitation; Telemedicine.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Health Plan Implementation
  • Hospitals, Rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Male
  • Occupational Therapy / methods
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Program Evaluation
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Speech Therapy / methods
  • Telerehabilitation / methods*