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Original report

Clinicians´ initial experiences of transition to online interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation during the covid-19 pandemic

Vera A. Baadjou, Marlies den Hollander, Thijs van Meulenbroek, Jeanine A. Verbunt, Inge Timmers
Rehabilitation Medicine, Adelante Centre of Expertise in Rehabilitation and Audiology, Maastricht, The Netherlands. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/20030711-1000036


Objective: Public health legislation during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in forced transitioning to the use of remote care in order to continue the provision of pain rehabilitation worldwide. The objective of this study was to gain insight into clinicians´ initial experiences with the provision of interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation via videoconferencing.
Design: Observational, cross-sectional design.
Participants: Twelve team members (specialists in rehabilitation medicine -MD- , psychologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists) from a tertiary expertise centre in pain rehabilitation.
Methods: Quantitative and qualitative data were collected via a digital survey. Theme-based content analysis was performed for qualitative data. Results: The themes that emerged were: the compulsory context; prerequisites for proper use of videoconferencing methods, which are strongly associated with the clinicians´ experiences; changes experienced in specific components of pain rehabilitation; and overarching changes experienced, including opportunities and limitations (sub-themes: therapeutic relationship, system involvement, efficiency, hands-on possibilities, interdisciplinary teamwork, and formalities). Overall, clinicians expressed moderate agreement with the statements that the quality of the pain rehabilitation programme can be maintained using videoconferencing, and that the COVID-19 pandemic offers opportunities for growth and innovation in telehealth.
Conclusion: It is feasible to provide valid and satisfactory pain rehabilitation via videoconferencing. This study identified facilitators and barriers to the use of videoconferencing, and great potential for integrating aspects of telehealth into standard care after the pandemic.

Lay Abstract

Legislation during the COVID-19 pandemic forced transitioning to remote care to continue pain rehabilitation treatment. In this study, first experiences with interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation by videoconferencing were gathered. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected from team members of a pain rehabilitation team via a digital survey. Overall, clinicians reported that videoconferencing is a valid way to continue care in times when legalisation does not allow for standard face-to-face care. Furthermore, clinicians see opportunities to integrate aspects of telehealth into standard care after the COVID-19 pandemic. However, several limitations and restrictions have been experienced, such as the lack of a physical examination and questions about long-term effectiveness of the treatment. In addition, further investigation is needed to investigate whether pain rehabilitation provided by videoconferencing reaches quality standards of regular care.


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