Occupational therapy is an important component of neurological rehabilitation. Clients in rural areas have fewer opportunities to receive rehabilitation than those in metropolitan areas. Telehealth is a potential method of closing these gaps in service delivery, although research into telehealth applications for neurological rehabilitation is extremely limited. To assist in the development of appropriate telehealth applications, this study aimed to identify the nature of occupational therapy services for neurological rehabilitation in areas of Queensland other than the capital city of Brisbane, the barriers to service delivery, and the current uses of various information and communication technologies among occupational therapists.
A self-administered questionnaire was sent to occupational therapists working in adult neurological rehabilitation in all areas of Queensland other than the capital city of Brisbane. Contact details were obtained from OT AUSTRALIA Queensland.
Responses were received from 39 eligible participants. The client's home was the most frequent setting in which participants saw clients. Home visits and modifications, equipment prescription, client/family education, and activities of daily living assessment and retraining were the most common interventions provided by participants. Frequently identified barriers to service provision included travelling distance to clients, large workloads and limited resources. Telephone, email, fax, the Internet and videoconferencing were available in most workplaces. Few participants used the Internet or videoconferencing for purposes other than continuing professional development.
Home-based assessment and intervention appear to be frequent components of occupational therapy practice among therapists working in neurological rehabilitation. The use of telehealth to provide direct home-based client services is currently limited, but should be explored as a possible solution to overcome some of the identified barriers to occupational therapy service provision for clients with neurological conditions in rural and remote areas.