School of Health Professions

OT students simulate telehealth therapy sessions

Telehealth Session

By Kate Hunger 

Occupational Therapy doctoral students this summer learned how to use telehealth to deliver therapy services.

Occupational Therapy Associate Professor Karin Barnes, Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA, created the telehealth assignment as part of the Pediatric Service Delivery course she teaches for second-year OTD students. Forty-two students participated in the assignment.

Telehealth can help address challenges to providing occupational therapy services, such as transportation, work schedules and remote home or school locations.

“It’s not a replacement for hands on at all,” Dr. Barnes said. “I see it as a great adjunct for follow up and monitoring.”

For the assignment, Dr. Barnes assigned a case study to groups of three students and tasked them with creating a simulated telehealth therapy session. The students played one of several roles, including an off-site occupational therapist, an occupational therapy assistant or a parent/caregiver. Dolls represented the child receiving the intervention. The groups simulated service delivery at a distance, with one member of each student group in a different site than the other two students, with all interactions conducted via observation and communication on laptop computers.  

In one example, Dr. Barnes explained, a group developed remote monitoring and instructions to help a parent better position a child with movement difficulties so the child could use her hands for play.

Creating the telehealth assignment was a collaborative effort between Dr. Barnes, who designed the pediatric case studies, and Mary Jacks, MS, RDH, educational development specialist at UT Health San Antonio, who provided guidance on using a learning management system platform to record the group projects, which were then shared with the entire class. 

Telehealth is becoming more common, Dr. Barnes said. 

“People are using it more,” she said. “One of these reasons we put this in the class is that our standards now require us to address telehealth.”

Second-year OTD student Miguel Guimbarda, who played the role of parent for his group project, appreciated the opportunity to practice skills in the telehealth model.  

“It helped us become confident with using the technology and video conferencing,” he said of the assignment. “We had to make sure we were effective and showing compassion necessary for a therapy session.”

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