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Changes in physiotherapy services and use of technology for people with multiple sclerosis during the COVID-19 pandemic

Published:January 25, 2023DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msard.2023.104520

      Highlights

      • Accessibility and perceived effectiveness of physiotherapy reduced during pandemic.
      • Physiotherapists advised PwMS to use web applications and television exercise programs.
      • Use of telerehabilitation or virtual reality technology did not increase.
      • Main concern in therapists’ use of remote technology was lack of physical assessment.

      Abstract

      Background

      The COVID-19 pandemic has led to reorganization or reduction of neurorehabilitation services for people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS). The aim of this study was to explore the changes in the organizational framework and technology usage in physiotherapy services for PwMS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Methods

      This international cross-sectional survey study was designed, developed, and disseminated by RIMS European Network for Best Practice and Research in Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation. Physiotherapists from nine countries (Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Turkey) who provided physiotherapy services to PwMS, were invited to complete an online survey to compare physiotherapy delivery to PwMS prior to and during the pandemic period.

      Results

      The survey was completed by 215 physiotherapists. Accessibility, the average number, length and perceived effectiveness of physiotherapy sessions provided to PwMS were significantly reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic (p=0.001). Physiotherapists increased the advice of mobile apps, recorded videos for rehabilitation and exercise websites during the pandemic (p<0.001) while the use of telerehabilitation and virtual reality technology did not change.

      Conclusion

      There was of a reduction in the number, duration and perceived effectiveness of rehabilitation sessions for people with multiple sclerosis during the COVID-19 pandemic while use of remote technologies for physiotherapy did not change. To ensure the continuity of physiotherapy for PwMS with complex healthcare needs also during pandemics, the provision of guidelines and training in telehealth technologies in professional education becomes crucial.

      Keywords

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