TelePhysio+: exploring changing perspectives of remote physiotherapy

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University of New Brunswick


Physiotherapy is traditionally performed in person, allowing physiotherapists to easily guide patients into the positions that are required for assessment. However, some circumstances prevent in-person sessions from taking place, such as living in rural areas with limited access or experiencing health-related barriers (e.g., lockdown due to pandemic). To accommodate demand for remote care in these circumstances, remote physiotherapy consultations can be supported by video-conferencing software and monocular webcams. In addition to preventing therapists from being able to physically touch their patients, remote physiotherapy supported in this way forces interactions into a 2D space, which constrains physiotherapists' view of their patients, limits bodily communication, and further reduces their control over a session. The nature of these interactions makes it challenging for physiotherapists to view a patient with enough fidelity to enable assessment, due to issues with latency, lighting, and field of view. While previous research has identified these issues as communicative barriers, solutions have often excluded the perspectives and needs of physiotherapists by focusing only on patients. We present TelePhysio+: a platform that addresses many of these obstacles, from the physiotherapist's point of view, by incorporating three-dimensional visualization through full-body tracking and allowing physiotherapists to directly control their perspective of the patient. Using this system as a probe, we present findings pertaining to physiotherapists' views on remote physiotherapy, challenges encountered in transitioning from in-person to remote physiotherapy, and aspects of remote physiotherapy they find problematic. Through our iterative design process, we also present design guidelines to help address physiotherapist needs, particularly with regards to engaging with 3D body tracking information, controlling patient perspectives, and managing patient information.