Telerehabilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Sweden: a survey of use and perceptions among physiotherapists treating people with neurological diseases or older adults
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Background : Telerehabilitation, i.e. rehabilitation at a distance using Information and Communication Technology (ICT), is a promising avenue for improving health among people with neurological diseases or older adults who often experience limited access to services. Still, little is known about physiotherapists’ use, perceptions and needs with regards to telerehabilitation services. Aims: To describe physiotherapists use and perceptions of, as well as needs for, telerehabilitation services for the rehabilitation of people with neurological diseases or older adults in Sweden. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, an author-created survey was sent out to members of the Swedish Association of Physiotherapists including questions about the use and perceptions of existing telerehabilitation services (e.g. telephone, internet-based applications and mobile applications) as well as needs of future telerehabilitation services. The results were presented descriptively as numbers and percentages. Results: Three hundred seven physiotherapists were included in this study with 139 (45%) treating people with neurological diseases and 168 (55%) treating older adults. Most respondents did not provide telerehabilitation before (74%) or during (51%) the COVID-19 pandemic. Telephone, which was predominantly used for administrative tasks, was the most frequent utilised ICT used by 68% of the physiotherapist using ICTs several days/week. Few respondents used internet-based applications (12%), mobile applications (3%) or SMS services (8%) and videoconferencing (3%). A majority of the respondents were interested in ICT (78%), felt comfortable using ICT (57%) and were interested in learning how ICT can be used in rehabilitation (92%). Still, few respondents perceived that people with neurological diseases or older adults can use existing ICTs for rehabilitation purposes (18%) and that existing reimbursement system within health care facilitates remote rehabilitation (16%). Important functionality of future ICT perceived by physiotherapists covered patient communication (e.g. chat, SMS and video), assessments (e.g. digital surveys and assessment of physical activity) and treatment (e.g. exercise prescription).