William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
OTs Bridge Digital Divide
Madison VA Occupational Therapists Help Bridge ‘Digital Divide’
Madison, WI – The rapid acceleration of telehealth in response to COVID-19 has changed the landscape for the delivery of occupational therapy services, with Occupational Therapists (OT) providing over 80,000 telehealth encounters during 2020.
Veterans are seeking the tools to empower and equip themselves to manage the physical and emotional stressors that have become part of everyday modern life.
To facilitate this, the Occupational Therapists on the Whole Health team in Madison, Wisconsin have transitioned their Whole Health services to the VA Video Connect (VVC) virtual platform.
Veterans can participate in a variety of tele-health wellness offerings including tai-chi, yoga, health coaching and mindfulness meditation sessions.
Occupational therapy practitioners have long been known for their creative solutions to complex problems and pride in adaptability.
In many ways, occupational therapy and telehealth are a perfect match. Uniquely trained and skilled in providing services that address environmental and personal factors, OTs can make recommendations to modify the environment to enhance participation in everyday life occupations, community living skills, education, work, leisure interests, and social participation.
Addressing the digital divide requires organizational and interdisciplinary teamwork. OTs have the training to assess and treat cognitive impairments, improve fine motor skills, promote emotional regulation, and incorporate learned actions into personalized meaningful engagement in activity, all contributing factors for success in telehealth participation.
“It’s one thing to choose not to partake in telehealth; it’s a whole other thing to not be given the opportunity to learn the skills to use technology effectively or lack the infrastructure to support connectivity.” Aimee Miller, COTA, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
Despite the VA’s success in telehealth delivery, there remains a division between those Veterans with the ability and capacity to participate in telehealth and those that have challenges in performance skills or that lack an environment conducive to connecting virtually.
Occupational Therapists can help address these barriers and provide services that address both environmental and personal factors.
Additionally, occupational therapy practitioners can act in a consultative role to help problem solve common issues that arise while using technology related to accessibility and disability.
The expertise of an occupational therapy practitioner can maximize the use of technology in health care by implementing modifications and adaptations for successful use of electronic devices, such as VA issued tablets.
Occupational therapists recognize that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and the profession values the importance of mind-body connection. While the path isn’t always easy, the benefits outweigh the time and effort for learning a new task, building skills, and accomplishing a goal.