Lessons learned during a naturalistic study of online treatment for pediatric rehabilitation

Naomi Gefen, Shoshana Steinhart, Maurit Beeri, Patrice L. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic forced many health care providers to modify their service model by adopting telehealth and tele-rehabilitation with minimal time to plan for its execution. ALYN—Pediatric Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel, responded with alacrity by providing a broad range of rehabilitation services to young people via online therapy during the first 5 months of the pandemic. The objectives of this naturalistic study were: (1) to monitor usage and user experience of online rehabilitation provided to young people receiving out-patient sessions of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and psychology and (2) to consider the advantages and disadvantages of retaining this model of online treatment in full or in part post-COVID-19. The online rehabilitation treatment program was provided to 147 young people, aged 3 months to 20 years (mean 8.5 y; SD 5.3), and monitored and evaluated via data from the medical records as well as interviews, questionnaires and focus groups. The results use descriptive and inferential statistics to analyze data on the types and frequencies of therapy provided to 147 young people. Over a five month-period, 2392 therapy sessions were provided, 61 therapists from four disciplines were involved and 56.4% of the young people received two or more types of therapies via online rehabilitation. A repeated measures ANOVA showed significant differences over time per therapy. Feedback and recommendations about the process from therapists, parents and young people were collected during two focus groups of the professional staff (n = 12), parents and young people (parents n = 5, young people n = 3). Tele-rehabilitation services were perceived to be beneficial and effective by the great majority of young people, their parents and the healthcare professionals. The results are discussed within the context of conventional therapy as well as in comparison to reports of other online services for similar populations. We conclude that a hybrid approach in which in-person therapy sessions are coordinated with synchronous, online sessions, will provide a best-case fit for young people with chronic disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6659
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number12
StatePublished - 21 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • COVID-19
  • Focus group
  • Online therapy
  • Pediatric rehabilitation
  • Remote therapy
  • Tele-rehabilitation
  • Telehealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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