Keeping up with OT and new technology

The Paper
Steel, E. J., Buchanan, R., Layton, N., & Wilson, E. (2017). Currency and competence of occupational therapists and consumers with rapidly changing technology. Occupational therapy international, 2017.

The Problem
Occupational therapists have traditionally played an integral role in connecting individuals to assistive technology. 

But as technology advances and everyday solutions become readily available to consumers, our role becomes less clear and necessary.  

Study Details

A qualitative case study approach was used to research one of the authors’ personal experiences with environmental control technology.

Data was generated through interview, discussion and reflection.

Key Takeaways
The OT and patient relationship with assistive technology is changing.

The cost of assistive tech has decreased and is dropping

  • This means patients have greater choice, less red tape, less risk (of making “bad choices”) and fewer delays or barriers to accessing helpful technology. Further, patients should have the right to purchase assistive technology that works for them that is not dictated by restrictive policies and funding structures.

Access and ease of implementation/ control have all improved:

  • Patients don’t need the specialized knowledge they once did to set up or use many new technologies.

Traditional roles of OTs in assistive technology may have in some ways have diminished: 

  • Implementation of assistive technology may not require specialized gatekeepers like OTs, in cases where the market can provide direct to patient support.

OT roles in assistive technology do still exist and new roles are emerging:

  • It’s likely patients will always need help refining and implementing technology into their lives.

  • Patients still need help to match technology to their specific needs - particularly around pragmatic constraints, and with regards to their specific care needs/ condition(s).

  • Patients need quality info on how exactly a technology will affect them or can help them.

  • Using technology well requires more than the product itself; it also requires assessment, adaptation, training and testing, and human support.  

  • OTs have the potential to play a role as facilitator/ connector between stakeholders (i.e companies ie…) who already know and use the technologies and those who don’t yet.

  • Keeping up to date with advancements is difficult for everyone, so specialists (i.e OTs) who are up to date with trends will always be important and useful.

Is OT “keeping up with the times”? Let us know what you think!