Telemedicine from research to practice during the pandemic

Covid-19 pandemic is creating collateral damage to outpatients, whose rehabilitation services have been disrupted in most of the European countries. Telemedicine has been advocated as a possible solution. This paper reports the contents of the third Italian Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (SIMFER) webinar on “experiences from the field” Covid-19 impact on rehabilitation (“Covinars”). It provides readily available, first-hand information about the application of telemedicine in rehabilitation. The experiences reported were very different for population (number and health conditions), interventions, professionals, service payment, and technologies used. Commonalities included the pushing need due to the emergency, previous experiences, and a dynamic research and innovation environment. Lights included feasibility, results, reduction of isolation, cost decrease, stimulation to innovation, satisfaction of patients, families, and professionals beyond the starting diffidence. Shadows included that telemedicine can integrate but will never substitute face-to-face rehabilitation base on the encounter among human beings; age, and technology barriers (devices absence, bad connection and human diffidence) have also been reported. Possible issues included privacy and informed consent, payments, cultural difficulties in understanding that telemedicine is a real rehabilitation intervention. There was a final agreement that this experience will be incorporated by participants in their future services: technology is ready, but the real challenge is to change PRM physicians’ and patients’ habits, while better specific regulation is warranted.

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