7 June 2021

In-house physio addresses COVID-19 rehab delays

| Katrina Condie
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Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Damian Smith

COVID-19 kickstarted a new way of treating preoperative and postoperative patients for orthopaedic surgeon Dr Damian Smith. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

For many years, Canberra orthopaedic surgeon Dr Damian Smith had thought about expanding his practice to include an in-house physiotherapy service, but it was the COVID-19 pandemic that finally kicked him into gear.

While Dr Smith carried out his elective procedures during most of 2020, COVID-19 restrictions often meant his patients had limited access to preoperative and postoperative physiotherapy at Canberra’s hospitals.

The solution was obvious: to bring a physio component into his practice, offering a one-stop shop for his patients.

“When COVID-19 hit, it put extra strain on hospital-based rehabilitation and caused some delays for our patients,” says Dr Smith.

“I didn’t want them to miss out on rehab, or for delays to have an adverse effect on the outcome of their surgery, so I decided to bring a physio service in-house.

“I wanted to give my patients an alternative option to hospital-based treatment.”

Physiotherapist Kristen Steele joined the InMotion Orthopaedics & Physiotherapy team in October and the practice now provides end-to-end orthopaedic treatment, an approach Dr Smith says optimises his patient’s outcomes.

“It’s great having Kristen working with postoperative patients just down the corridor because I can pop in and see how they’re going,” he says.

Kristen Steele from InMotion

InMotion physiotherapist Kristen Steele. Photo: InMotion Orthopaedics & Physiotherapy.

“It’s working really well and the feedback from patients has been positive.

“It’s amazing how you can think about something for a long time, and when the COVID-19 restrictions hit, so many businesses were forced to change or rethink the way they operate, resulting in positive outcomes.”

Dr Smith says InMotion takes an integrated approach to orthopaedics, allowing his team to tailor care to an individual’s needs, whether it’s exploring non-surgical options, providing advice on exercise, nutrition and lifestyle, or working with other practitioners to develop a post-surgery treatment plan.

“Yes, I’m a surgeon, but if I can collaborate with Kristen and we can treat people with arthritis, joint pain or a sports injury without surgery, that’s the preferred outcome,” he says.

“We now have a broad range of treatments that we can offer in-house, but I’m still collaborating with external physio services and GPs as always.”

Kristen says having the opportunity to work with Dr Smith is “valuable and rewarding”.

“It is important that patients are educated on the importance of increasing strength to decrease pain and improve quality of life,” she says.

“Together, Damian and I share the same values and principles – prioritising the patient and their goals, not the process.

“We work together as a team to improve the whole person, not just a joint.

“We develop ongoing and beautiful patient-clinician relationships, with honesty, trust and support.

Maree Bryant, Dr Damian Smith and Ursula Slane McCann

From left: Maree Bryant, orthopaedic surgery practice manager; Dr Damian Smith, orthopaedic surgeon; and Ursula Slane McCann, orthopaedic secretary. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

“Post-discharge, our patients are not forgotten. It is nice to give a patient a call to see how they are going, discuss tips and hear their wonderful news regarding achievements post-treatment.”

As well as vital post-surgery treatment, Dr Smith recommends his patients see a physiotherapist before surgery so their general health is in peak condition before an operation.

He says having Kristen working alongside him means she can advise patients in the lead up to their operation, as well as afterwards during their recovery.

The practice offers a range of physiotherapist-led activities, including aquatic classes, group exercise classes and Pilates designed to help patients work on their specific needs to ensure functional, targeted movement control and to assist in keeping their joints healthy.

“Your physio can set you a pre-operative conditioning program to optimise your strength and balance, and they are essential to help get you moving and back in motion after surgery,” explains Dr Smith.

InMotion Orthopaedics & Physiotherapy opened in Woden in 2019, and branched out to Belconnen in August 2020.

To find out more, click here.

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