On March 15, Kellie Bedoni was using her hands to help her patients improve their movement and manage their pain. The next day, she had to figure out how to do it virtually.
It wasn’t an easy transition, and she didn’t exactly embrace it at first, but like others in the physical therapy profession, Bedoni had no choice but to acclimate to new protocols brought about by COVID-19.
Five months in, Bedoni, a Northeastern graduate and founder and owner of K Bedoni Physical Therapy, is an advocate for technologies that allow doctors to treat patients remotely. Like other healthcare providers on the front lines of the pandemic, she’s had to find new ways to persevere and adapt to the changes coming to her profession.
“My hands are my bread and butter,” Bedoni said during a webinar hosted by the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. “I had to shift my mental focus to: How do I educate [my] patients now to be more resilient, to guide themselves through their treatment, and if their signs and symptoms come back, how to manage that in the future.”
Bedoni was one of four Bouvé faculty and graduates who participated in the webinar, which addressed topics such as the effect on children from being quarantined and out of school, the effect on the practice of rehab, and the long-term effects on patient health.
Emily Zimmerman, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, highlighted the limitations of telehealth. Although an effective means of delivering contactless medical services, telehealth also comes with challenges, she said.
“These include access to the internet, knowledge of technology for that more senior population, and then you also have therapists working with young children and trying to keep their attention via Zoom, which is challenging,” she said.
Zimmerman noted that providers in the field of speech language pathology, for example, have been challenged in their ability to evaluate young children for speech, language, and hearing impairments.
She observed that while considerable attention has been paid to the survival rates among patients recovering from the coronavirus, the next crisis she foresees emerging is the high disability burden of intensive care survivors.
Kristin Dunn, a graduate who works as an inpatient physical therapist at the Boston Medical Center, suggested that the process of rehabilitation will have to shift to accommodate patients recovering from COVID-19. Another challenge facing providers is looking differently at how socioeconomic status affects health status, she said.
“I think that we need a lot more resources into equalizing the healthcare system and the access to the healthcare system,” she said.
Kristin Curry Greenwood, a clinical professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences, disclosed that researchers in Bouvé are working on different initiatives with partners in data science, computer science, and technology on solutions for the post-COVID-19 era.
One study will examine how people eat and how they feed their young children. Another will assess psychosocial and physiological changes in interactions between mothers and their children.
“The research questions are numerous, and I think Bouvé is really taking the lead so that’s very exciting,” Zimmerman said.