Osteopathic interventions via telehealth in a pediatric population: a retrospective case series

Joanna L. Kramer, DO, MPH; and Kathleen De Asis, DO, MS
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: April 21, 2021

Accepted: June 22, 2021

Published: August 17, 2021

  • Joanna L. Kramer, DO, MPH, 

    Phoenix Children’s Hospital Division of Primary, Complex Care, and Adolescent Medicine, Phoenix, AZ, USA

  • Kathleen De Asis, DO, MS, 

    Phoenix Children’s Pediatric Residency Program Alliance, Phoenix, AZ, USA

J Osteopath Med; 121(11): 857-861

Context: Healthcare delivery was dramatically affected during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Many outpatient visits were cancelled or forgone for fear of exposure to the virus, allowing telemedicine to take on a much larger role in healthcare. The delivery of manual therapies, such as osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), via telehealth posed a unique challenge as these are typically provided in-person by a trained osteopathic physician. This study provides a description of one osteopathic pediatrician’s experience in delivering osteopathic interventions to pediatric patients via telehealth. To our knowledge, these techniques have not previously been described in the literature.

Objectives: To detail the experience of one osteopathic pediatrician’s experience in delivering osteopathic interventions via telehealth.

Methods: Patients were offered the option of converting their existing OMT appointment to a telehealth visit. Prior to the appointment, instructions were emailed to the patient’s parent or guardian along with a voluntary survey to provide feedback. Thirty-minute telehealth visits were conducted during which the provider gave verbal and visual instructions to a parent or guardian over a video platform to guide them in providing treatment to the patient based on osteopathic principles. Patients aged 3 and older rated their pain before and after the appointment using the Wong-Baker FACES scale. Deidentified patient demographics, chief complaints, treatments, anatomic locations, and pain scores were recorded in a REDcap database. Descriptive statistics were analyzed and paired samples t-tests were used with a p-value of <0.05 used to determine significance.

Results: Eighteen patients ranging from 6 months to 19 years of age were treated utilizing osteopathic interventions via telehealth during 54 distinct visits. The most common chief complaints treated were back (n=31; 26.3%) and neck (n=28; 23.7%) pain. The most common osteopathic techniques upon which instruction was based were inhibition (n=131; 29.7%) soft tissue (n=127; 28.8%) and counterstrain (n=78; 17.7%). The average post-treatment pain score (2.57) was significantly lower than the average pre-treatment pain score (6.77) p<0.01. No serious complications were observed.

Conclusions: In our small retrospective case series, osteopathic interventions via telehealth resulted in decreased average pain scores following treatment while minimizing risk of viral exposure and transmission. Further study is needed to determine if such treatment methods could be effective on a larger scale when distance or illness preclude an in-person OMT visit.

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