Exploring the patient experience of telehealth hand therapy services during the COVID-19 pandemic

J Hand Ther. 2023 Jul-Sep;36(3):606-615. doi: 10.1016/j.jht.2022.07.004. Epub 2022 Jul 7.


Study design: Electronic Survey.

Introduction: Internationally the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented shift from face-to-face therapy to telehealth services.

Purpose of the study: This paper explores the patient experience and satisfaction with telehealth hand therapy in a metropolitan setting during a period (March 1 to May 31, 2021) of 'moderate' COVID-19 risk when there was minimal community transmission of COVID-19.

Methods: Patients attending telehealth services were invited to participate in an English language online survey at the conclusion of their therapy session via a pop-up invitation.

Results: During the recruitment period there were 123 survey responses (29% response rate; 98% completion rate). Half of the respondents (n = 78, 53%) reported saving between 10 and 29 minutes of travel time (each way) by attending a telehealth appointment, while 36% (n = 44) saved more than 30 minutes (each way). Almost all respondents (n = 117, 95%) noted telehealth should be used in the future. The main benefit for telehealth was more easily fitting appointments around other commitments, followed by reducing stress and costs surrounding hospital attendance. Most participants (n = 97, 79%) reported no challenges using telehealth. The most cited challenges included the therapist not being able to provide hands on treatment (n = 14, 11%) and for seven respondents getting the technology to work (6%).

Discussion: The elevated level of participant satisfaction of attending telehealth sessions informs us that this mode of therapy delivery could benefit patients in a post-pandemic environment.

Conclusions: Metropolitan funding models prior to the pandemic did not allow for this mode of therapy and hence consideration for an ongoing hybrid funding model of both face-to-face and telehealth should be considered by policy makers, insurance and government funding bodies.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Hand injuries; Rehabilitation; Telehealth; Telemedicine.