Media Release - telehealth

15 April 2020

As Kiwis change their exercise habits under lockdown – from dusting off those old running shoes to online classes and joining the kids on the trampoline – minor injuries are inevitable.  But what’s the alternative to physiotherapy treatment when you can no longer actually visit a physio in person?

The answer is simple. Because a lot of conditions can be treated by physios remotely.

Telehealth sessions via video conferencing are being provided by physiotherapists throughout New Zealand.  And, as before the lockdown, many accidental injuries qualify for ACC support.

Physiotherapy New Zealand president, Liz Binns says people might be surprised just what a physio can do for them remotely.

“From remedial exercises for joint and muscle injuries, to advising on pain relief and exercises for bad backs and tweaked necks . . . physios’ skills are as much in demand under lockdown as they ever were.

“But our concern is many New Zealanders won’t realise they can still get help from physios during lockdown; or just how helpful a video session with their physiotherapist can be.  That means there could be many Kiwis suffering in silence, or turning to painkillers as their own relief – and that’s not a recommended long-term solution.”

Ms Binns said she knew of some PNZ members with patients that never knew seeing their physio remotely was an option. For some, such as those living rurally, this could be more convenient than face-to-face contact. Others are impressed by how seeing their physio online can keep them moving in the same way as their in-person sessions. We’re also hearing that our Olympic athletes are maintaining contact with their physios remotely as they now train towards Tokyo in 2021.

“And it’s not just injuries we can help with during lockdown,” says Ms Binns. “Patients seeing physios for long-term help managing chronic pain issues will hopefully have kept in touch with their physios.  Because, thanks to technology, we can be a virtual part of their bubble to give them the support and advice they need.”

PNZ also has a Cardio-Respiratory Special Interest Group, whose expertise is particularly relevant given COVID-19 affects lungs and airways. These physios work in a number of settings from emergency departments, Intensive Care Units, and acute care wards through to outpatients respiratory clinics and community settings, delivering individualised treatment sessions as well as exercise and education programmes.