You see, I have recently been attending the 5th Exercise & Sport Science Australia Conference, that was combined with the 7th Sports Dieticians Australia Update; held at Jupiters Casino (Gold Coast, Queensland).
Now as I sit here in my hotel room overlooking Surfers Paradise, I am still trying to process all of the information that I have received over the past couple of days so that I can implement it in a way that will benefit our patients.
One of the presentations I sat in on, delivered by Professor Elizabeth Ekin – “Using the telephone to promote physical activity, healthy eating and weight control: From research to real-world application”; raised a few critical points of how important communication technology is in facilitating any type of program.
Now the research she had performed was directed at improving weight loss through promoting physical activity and healthy living in middle aged adults, in remote areas of Queensland via weekly telephone communication (as distance is a limiting factor in being able to meet their patients healthcare needs).
The results they achieved were reportedly in line with the average weight loss program range facilitated by dietitians, where physical activity and healthy eating habits had also improved. Now the most intriguing statistic is that there was a significant participation rate of 92% and a program completion rate of 75%.
Even though the research carried out in this study was aimed more at achieving healthy living through nutrition and physical activity (not directly in line with injury rehabilitation); I believe it would be reasonable to draw similar conclusions to the importance of the telephone and other communication technologies in our own treatment programs.
As part of our current service model for facilitating treatment to patients; we put ourselves as Exercise Physiologists directly in front of them to firstly assess, identify and understand their physical challenges; and to prescribe exercises that address the issues identified to improve their quality of life.
Additionally, we provide our patients with face to face support. Sharing with them our knowledge base, we provide them with the motivation and positive reinforcement required to help them achieve the goals we have set out to accomplish together. We also assist them to establish and implement pain coping strategies that work for them, in order to lead them through a process resulting in the self management of their injuries to prevent flare ups or reoccurring injuries.
Since we provide so much value to our patients in the traditional face to face capacity, there must be some way that we could implement a component of our services by embracing the communication technologies that we have available today to provide even more value.
To achieve this we need to extend beyond simply using the telephone (as used in the above research study presented); and begin to look at utilising both mobile phone and computer technology. The possibility of harnessing the power of the telephone, SMS text messaging, email and video conferencing combined to communicate our message to our patients could be enormous.
Not only may it allow us to deepen the relationship that we currently have with our patients, but we may also be able to significantly improve their lives and I feel that in itself is a reason worth exploring the utilisation of communication technology even further.