Showing AT Value Through Telehealth Training

April 14, 2020 by Claire Higgins

During the COVID-19 pandemic, athletic trainers have stepped up to help their communities and local health care systems in multiple ways, including screening, telemedicine and infrastructure. NATA will share what athletic trainers everywhere are doing to care for their patients, communities and themselves during this time.

Megan Wahl, MS, LAT, ATC

Athletic trainer at Duke Sports Medicine

Durham, North Carolina

1. What is the current COVID-19 situation like in your area and how have you and your patients been affected?
North Carolina is on a stay-at-home order. This has affected my job as I've been working from home. My husband has also been working from home so it has been an adjustment for both of us. Our clinics have been trying to convert as many visits as possible to telephone or video visits which is a big change for our patients and staff. 

2. If your area is practicing social distancing/self-isolation or is in quarantine, how are you staying in contact with your patients?
We are staying in contact with our patients through video visits and telephone calls. We have increased the number of video visits we are offering to provide care to our patients. 

3. What advice, guidance or instruction have you given them? Are there resources that have been helpful or would be helpful to have in this regard?
Everyone has been very understanding of the change in how we are providing care to them and many have been excited to know we are offering video visits for their appointments. 

4. Are you volunteering or working in your community, whether with your local hospital/health care system or other organization, like a local shelter? If so, what are you doing and why did you decide to use your time/skills in this way?
I have not performed any additional work outside of my hospital. Instead, I have been assisting with training providers in how to utilize telehealth for my hospital system which has evolved my role. I have been providing telehealth training to 10-15 providers a day. This role has taken over my normal clinic and patient care duties for the time being. I am now part of a system-wide telehealth training group and have exposure to all departments.

5. How have you been able to use or grow your athletic training skill set during this time?
The physician I work with has been utilizing video visits in his practice over the past two years. I have been fortunate to assist him with the visits which has provided me experience and knowledge in telehealth prior to the pandemic. I help him identify which patients would benefit from a video visit and coordinate the visit for the patient.

I also participate in the visit and assist with scribing, communicating tech issues to our telehealth support team, and help provide follow-up care for the patients from the visit. I also have my own telehealth account and able to see some of our post-ops through video visits.

We were going to start offering our new patients telehealth "pre-visits" prior to COVID-19 taking off. These pre-visits would allow the opportunity to establish care for new patients and to make their in-person visit more effective. Our wait times are one-two months for a new patient visit and we wanted to find a way to utilize telehealth and the clinical knowledge of the AT to improve upon their care during their wait.

Due to COVD-19, our hospital system started increasing the use of telehealth. This created an opportunity for me to help in a unique way given my experience in the platform. Initially, I started aiding providers across the health system get set-up with the telehealth platform. I have also been helping train the staff members who are going to help train providers  in their respective departments.

This opportunity has allowed me the chance to broaden my skill set as an AT.  Success in this endeavor has also allowed me to leverage my native AT skill sets. As an AT we are always having to adapt to the various settings and environments we are in and getting creative to provide the best care for our athletes. In this role, I am helping physicians change the way that they are providing care to their patients and helping them adapt to new methods and technologies.

6. What are you doing to take care of yourself and stay connected with your local community, athletic training community, friends and family?
I am trying to get outside when I can to go for a walk, bike ride or workout in my backyard to get some fresh air and have a change of pace from being inside my house all day. My husband and I have tried to support local businesses by ordering takeout from them. We have been doing Zoom meetings with our family and friends – We have even done virtual trivia nights!

7. What encouragement would you give your fellow ATs during this time?
I would encourage my fellow ATs to utilize this time to challenge and improve upon themselves. It's a great opportunity to curate a new skill set. I think we should look upon this time at home as a gift, not a hindrance. It's forcing all of us to slow down, spend more time with family, and reconnect with friends (through Zoom, of course). 

8. What advice would you give to other ATs interested in getting involved in their community during this time?
ATs have a wide variety of skills that can definitely help the community right now. I would recommend that they rely on the contacts they have within their community to see how they can help. 

9. What challenges have you faced in getting involved as an AT? How did you overcome these challenges?
One of the biggest challenges of getting involved with telehealth has been coming from a more clinical background, not an IT background. The training that I am doing requires setting providers up on the telehealth platform we utilize and involves a lot of troubleshooting and educating on all levels of technology use. I've tried to re-frame my training perspective by relying on my clinical background to help provide a different angle and education for the providers. I've been learning as I go and utilizing the lessons I've learned to help grow and create a better experience for the next provider.

10. What has been a positive part of this experience for you? Where do you find the bright spot in times like this?
I have really enjoyed the trainings I am doing. It has given me the opportunity to connect with people all over our health system and also helped me grow a new skill set. It has also given me the opportunity to educate providers on how we've been utilizing telehealth and what an AT can do. Many of the providers I train ask what my involvement is with the MD and the telehealth process, which allows me to share the "AT in physician practice" model and how the AT integrates into the use of telehealth for continuity of care.