Time to start thinking about physiotherapy beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

The easing of COVID-19 restrictions in some countries presents an opportunity to reflect on what we have learnt so far and how we can shape the future. Madeleine Albright, the United States of America’s first female Secretary of State, made this point very eloquently in a recent interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Late Night Live show. She said: “We need to use this isolated time to think ahead. To understand the importance of resiliency, of optimism or hope, and working together and trying to sort out what the next steps are going to be and who are going to be the people who are going to help us get there. This is a cliché, but we need to use a crisis as an opportunity to think anew.”

The PEDro Team have started to think about the future of physiotherapy. During the pandemic, physiotherapists have embraced telehealth to provide intervention. While this will not replace in-person care, increased use of technology has great potential for making treatment more accessible and equitable for all. It is also a time to re-evaluate how we use high-quality clinical research to improve patient care. We need researchers to rigorously evaluate important clinical questions and disseminate the findings in a clear and transparent way. We need clinicians to use this research to guide practice, so the most effective and cost-effective interventions are offered to patients and unnecessary, ineffective or harmful interventions are phased out. Finally, we need researchers and clinicians to work collaboratively in networks, both nationally and internationally, to identify and answer important evidence gaps. Taking these steps will help solve the complex health challenges of our future.

Around the globe, physiotherapists continue to provide frontline care for COVID-19. We have some more key initiatives and resources to highlight in this post.

A webcast recording of a 2-day virtual cardiorespiratory intensive care unit training course is now available. The training is hosted by the Ministry of Health and the Health Education and Training Institute in New South Wales (Australia) and was prepared in partnership with the Australian Physiotherapy Association. The training supports physiotherapists to function effectively in intensive care units with increasing cases of COVID-19 and focuses on methods to wean patients off ventilators. This webcast is freely available to all (access instructions are in the last paragraph of the web-site).

The Cochrane Collaboration have recently updated a systematic review evaluating personal protective equipment, including which type of full-body equipment and which method of donning or doffing have the least risk of infection for healthcare workers. The review concluded that there is low‐ to very low‐certainty evidence that covering more parts of the body leads to better protection but usually comes at the cost of more difficult donning or doffing and less user comfort. Modifications to equipment design, such as tabs to grab, may decrease the risk of contamination. Face‐to‐face training and spoken instructions during doffing may reduce errors. This review is a great support document for the World Confederation for Physical Therapy’s #PPE4PT advocacy campaign.

From Italy to India, people around the globe have been expressing their gratitude to healthcare workers providing frontline services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Letters For The Front is a new initiative aimed at boosting the morale and wellbeing of frontline healthcare workers. You can leave a message of support for anyone in the Australian healthcare system here.

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