How virtual care is helping concussion patients during the pandemic

The pandemic changed how health professionals like physiotherapists and occupational therapists treat their patients — especially those dealing with concussions. 

Instead of in-person sessions, many providers pivoted to virtual appointments in order to continue to offer care while lockdown orders took effect. CBI Health Group, Canada’s largest community healthcare provider, experienced this firsthand. 

“We went from nationally serving about 140 sessions per month virtually, to 134,000 at the beginning of the pandemic per month,” said Lindsay Benoit, a physiotherapist and a regional manager at CBI in Calgary. Benoit is a brain injury expert who oversees a team of clinicians that focus on functional recovery and restoration following brain injuries, concussions and strokes. 

Think Research hosted a webinar with Benoit and Matt Wright, a registered kinesiologist and a regional manager in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, on how virtual care has changed the way CBI members deliver treatment and what that means for concussion patients.

Here are some takeaways from the informative webinar. 

Innovative ways to help with concussion management 

Before the pandemic, virtual care — including phone and video appointments — for concussions and brain injuries was often brushed aside. But after training and figuring out an effective workflow, it’s shown to be effective. 

The pandemic has accelerated innovative treatment plans. CBI has developed a safe, enterprise way to help with concussion management during a time where in-person appointments are not always possible.

While CBI promotes that concussion assessments should always include a vestibular assessment, which are best done in-person, once a client is able to benefit from virtual care, remote management can significantly help their condition. CBI built an online “client portal” for patients that includes resources like at-home exercises to help manage concussion symptoms with equipment they have available.

Patients report feeling more confident in their concussion management skills when they know how to deal with symptoms in real-word settings, like at work or at home. The benefit of video or telephone care means healthcare providers can walk patients through what they should do exactly in those instances. 

Virtual care can make treatment more accessible

Pre-pandemic, patients would have to travel into cities for treatment if they lived in rural parts of the province where they couldn’t easily access care. Now, they can be referred to a CBI specialist and be seen from the comfort of their home. The distance is no longer a barrier. 

Remote appointments are also beneficial for people who can’t physically get into a clinic due to symptoms like dizziness, or have issues with transportation or taking time off work.

Symptom management can improve outcomes

Getting treatment for concussions and brain injuries is incredibly important. When left untreated, concussions or brain injuries can lead to long-term issues or complications. The pandemic should not prevent access to quality care. Effective virtual appointments and online resources offered to patients by CBI-affiliated providers means symptoms can continue to be managed and assessed anytime and from anywhere. 

Did you know? CBI Health is also available to receive digital referrals in the Waterloo-Wellington and South West regions. They can be accessed by searching CBI Health on the Ocean Health Map: https://oceanhealthmap.ca/