In a recent point of view article published in the Physical Therapy Journal (PTJ), FPTR-funded researcher Jason R. Falvey, PT, DPT, PhD, and coauthors argue that home and community-based physical therapists are essential health care providers and that delaying physical therapy services may harm the most vulnerable patients. PTJ Editor-in-Chief, Alan Jette, PT, PhD, MPH, FAPTA, also interviewed Falvey for the PTJ podcast in follow up to the publication.
Falvey and coauthors Cindy Krafft, PT, MS, HCS-O, and Diana Kornetti, PT, MA, HCS-D, HCS-C, argue that physical therapists who adhere to safety and social distancing recommendations can contribute to 3 goals during the COVID 19 health crisis: reducing risk for avoidable hospitalization, helping offload emergency department overcrowding as part of an interdisciplinary team, and meeting rehabilitation demand for survivors of COVID 19.
Falvey’s article was funded in part through FPTR’s 2019 Health Services Pipeline Research Grant, made possible through a generous donation from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), and a training grant from the National Institute on Aging. He is also a 2-time recipient of the FPTR PODS II Scholarship (2017 and 2018) and received a PODS I Scholarship in 2015.
FPTR-funded investigators report many adaptations and changes in research amid the COVID 19 pandemic. Educational institutions have moved to remote communications and many trials have been paused as social distancing recommendations are put into practice. The challenges of the era may call for changes in the way that research is conducted and may also dictate demand in research topics.
“I anticipate that virtual or remote assessments and follow ups may be part of research projects, either as a primary mode of data collection or as a written backup plan in protocols,” says Falvey. “I also think there will be a number of studies that extend tele-rehabilitation research for numerous conditions. Lastly, I think the surge of post-hospitalization disability will bring attention to the importance of rehabilitation across the continuum of care after critical illness as a way to flatten the disability curve.”
Falvey offers encouragement to those physical therapist researchers who wish to continue contributing to the profession’s evidence base during the COVID 19 crisis. “Take this time to really think about how to diversify your research portfolio, and maybe develop new collaborations,” says Falvey. “Big data projects, or projects using existing cohorts, often could use a second look from physical therapists to develop new lines of inquiry.”