Telemedicine: an opportunity for patients

ISICO has longstanding experience in caring for and monitoring young scoliosis patients (children and adolescents) living all over Italy and also abroad. Precisely for this reason, i.e. in order to find a way of allowing farther-flung patients to travel to the centre less often, it has already experimented with various telemedicine tools.
In fact, over the years, ISICO patients, some even living in other continents (such as Australia and the USA), have been able to follow long-term treatment programmes thanks to the availability of online consultations.

Used alongside the traditional services delivered in our clinics across Italy, telemedicine is an additional tool available to our patients that, while saving them time and long journeys, nevertheless guarantees them the same quality of care.
Experiences in this field in recent years, and in particular during the COVID-19 emergency, have made it increasingly clear that, whenever possible, telemedicine should be an integral part of healthcare, on a par with traditional care.

Telemedicine: how it took off during the COVID-19 emergency

Our recourse to online consultations and treatments during the COVID-19 emergency did not constitute a completely new experience, but rather a speeding up of a process that was already under way. Indeed, drawing on the experience it has acquired over the years, ISICO moved its schedule of medical and rehabilitation sessions online, so as to be able to respect the calendar of appointments already arranged with its patients.
Thus, over the two months or so, we delivered thousands of telemedicine services and were pleased to receive positive feedback from our patients, such as: “I appreciated the continuity of care and knowing that I would always be able to count on “seeing” my own doctor and therapist even in emergency situations like the current coronavirus emergency”.

Isico has now reported its telemedicine experiences during the COVID-19 emergency, and the relative data, in an article entitled Feasibility and acceptability of telemedicine to substitute outpatient rehabilitation services in the COVID-19 emergency in Italy: an observational everyday clinical-life study, which has been published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Although our clinics have now reopened, Isico has continued to offer patients the possibility of consulting specialists online, too, and therefore without having to leave their own homes.

Telemedicine: how it works

“With the help of parents, examinations can be carried out remotely: we send parents tutorials explaining how they should photograph their child. Using these photos, we then take the measurements to assess the state of the scoliosis” explains Prof. Stefano Negrini, medical and scientific director of ISICO – “In addition, parents are taught how to position patients in relation to the video camera for “live” examinations. Alternatively, the examination can be carried out at the patient’s nearest ISICO clinic. In this case, the medical specialist, connected via video call, is assisted by a therapist, who takes the patient’s measurements”.

And how does all this work with exercise-based treatments?

At ISICO we have been using the Scientific Exercises Approach to Scoliosis (Seas) for many years now. In this case, after an initial session, during which the patient is taught exercises specially tailored to his/her needs, he/she carries on doing them independently at home.

Once a certain interval of time has elapsed, the programme of exercises is checked by the physiotherapist, who evaluates whether or not it needs to be updated on the basis of the patient’s growth and the evolution of his/her curve, and so on.

This kind of follow-up can easily be carried out online, just like the initial exercise session.