Pandemic sparks innovative treatment options at ProActive Rehab

Julie Reuben was out for a walk with her dog on an icy April day in 2020 when she fell and hit her head, resulting in a concussion. She knew she needed help managing her symptoms, but she quickly realized that treatment options were limited because of COVID-19.
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“I really needed some help in those early days,” says Julie. “I was experiencing very low tolerance for visual stimulation, especially from technology, as well as headaches and mental fatigue.” Having just started a new job and anxious to start her recovery, Julie reached out to Leslie Tempest at ProActive Rehab.

In March, when ProActive’s doors were closed at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, the team at ProActive wasted no time finding new ways to support their clients. By leveraging existing tools and technology, they were able to set up a virtual rehab system within a few weeks. So, when Julie contacted them about concussion rehab services, Leslie suggested she try online treatment. Getting set up for the first session was easy and didn’t require any special equipment beyond a computer and an internet connection.

“ProActive has a really well-organized system. Almost everything was done through emails,” Julie says. “They gave me links to set up an account, to choose dates for services, to manage payments, to provide consent before each session and to join virtual meetings. It was really simple.”

Julie says her virtual appointments felt very much like in-person treatment. During the first session, Leslie reviewed her case history, discussed the results of initial testing, and demonstrated some eye and head exercises for Julie to practice throughout the week. The first few sessions lasted about an hour, and subsequent appointments were about 40 minutes. Through Zoom, Leslie could watch Julie perform the exercises, take measurements and make necessary corrections. Leslie also emailed Julie detailed instructions for the exercises after each appointment.

Julie noticed an improvement in her symptoms right away. “Leslie provided a ton of great education,” she says. “When you understand why you’re feeling a certain way, or why you should avoid doing a certain thing, you can begin settling your system and start working things back up.”

Julie says her online treatment was just as effective as in-person treatment. In fact, the added convenience and ease of access meant that she was able to attend more appointments than she likely would have been able to attend at the clinic. “I wouldn’t have been able to go every week if I had to drive up to Huntsville for each appointment. I was too tired and, with my symptoms, it would have been too much.” Julie also appreciated that she and Leslie could see each other face-to-face without the need for masks and other PPE. “It was during COVID so she wouldn’t have been that close in person anyway and she would have had her mask on. This way we could see each other’s faces clearly; there wasn’t that barrier.”

Leslie says the restrictions of the pandemic have opened up new opportunities at ProActive Rehab that will have lasting benefits for patients, long after things go back to normal. “It turns out that, in most cases, we can help our clients just as well virtually as we can in person,” she says. “I see us continuing to offer virtual rehab, even after the pandemic restrictions are lifted. If the weather is bad, a stubborn cold has set in or someone’s symptoms make the drive difficult, virtual appointments are a great option.”

Julie says she would probably choose virtual rehab again, even if in-person appointments were available. “It worked really well for me. As bad as this pandemic is, it has really opened up some new avenues to access important services like physiotherapy.”

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