Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many “elective” produces are not happening right now. For some around the United States, that includes cancer surgeries such as lumpectomies & mastectomies. Whether or not this is happening in your community currently, oncology PT has an even more important role & opportunity to serve our patients who may have their treatment delayed or altered due to these circumstances. Specifically related to prehab, now is the time more than even to be getting patients in your door for prehab evaluations.
For those unfamiliar with prehab, “prehabilitation” or “prehab” is often a baseline assessment to screen or evaluate patients for functional mobility impairments either before or at the beginning of treatment. Ideally, the evaluation happens before treatment (surgery, chemo, XRT, etc.) starts, but this doesn’t always happen in that order. Prehab offers us clinicians the opportunity to intervene early before problems happen or before they get worse. Through prehab, I can educate my patients on the front end about common side effects of treatment, how to mitigate functional decline related to treatment, how cancer rehab can help them, & what to do in case certain impairments arise (i.e. lymphedema).
Unfortunately in my practice, many of the patients don’t find their way to my clinic until after treatment starts. Commonly, I don’t see patients until they’ve already completed one treatment & are well into a second or third treatment. This makes implementing true “prehab” tricky but not impossible. I can still take objective measures of what’s happening here & now, educate the patient on their impairments & common side effects, & proceed with an appropriate plan of care.
Again with COVID-19 happening all around us, your practice may have changed a bit due to the circumstances – I know mine sure has. BUT, as you are able, now is the perfect time to ramp up your prehab program to get patients in the door for these prehab screenings. Let’s face it: many of your patients can’t go in to the office, participate in their other extracurricular activities, or even see some of their other health care providers (this largely depends on how that practitioner is handling their appointments these days). Your patients may or may not have some of their treatment schedules altered (surgery postponed, etc.). You might even have some extra time on your schedule due to your patient load shifting. All opportunities for prehab!
Next Tuesday, April 28 @ 7pm CST, I’m hosting a Facebook Live on the 5 things in 5 minutes you must implement in your practice to better serve your patients, make your treatment more effective, & make you a more confident & competent OncoPT! See you there!