Innovations in technology have propelled occupational therapy to new heights. While many occupational therapists still implement conventional (and effective) treatment practices, like painting or using utensils, a growing number of occupational therapists are incorporating various technological solutions to enhance and enrich their patients’ occupational therapy experience. These solutions include using apps, video games and hearing assistive technologies. Some of these technologies are better suited for children, while others can be of great use to elderly patients.
If you’re interested in learning more about a career in occupational therapy, know that technology will likely play a significant role in your everyday practice, allowing you to help your patients like never before.
What Is the Goal of Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is often confused with physical therapy. While occupational therapy does resemble physical therapy, the former can be much more nuanced. While physical therapy helps people regain mobility and restore physical health, occupational therapy aims to teach or restore daily living skills, such as eating or getting dressed, enabling patients to become more independent.
As an occupational therapist, your main responsibilities will include:
- Evaluating patients’ conditions
- Developing OT goals and treatment plans
- Assisting patients with everyday tasks
- Educating family members on how they can help their loved ones perform daily tasks
- Assessing patient progress and sharing it with other medical professionals and insurance companies
The Role of Technology in Occupational Therapy
For many years, occupational therapy was practiced without the use of technology. Nowadays, occupational therapists have access to many technological features that aid patients in overcoming their physical limitations.
While many traditional OT methods are still highly effective, using technology can help with patient engagement, especially in the case of young children. For example, a child whose treatment includes drawing or coloring can use an iPad, instead of crayons, messy markers and coloring books to practice these skills.
Elderly patients can use virtual assistants, like Alexa or Siri, to control their environment without having to get up or ask others for help. While teaching patients how to use a virtual assistant may sound unconventional, keep in mind the goal of occupational therapy is to help someone become more independent, which is something a virtual assistant does.
Examples of Technology Used in Occupational Therapy
IPads and virtual assistants are only a handful of technological solutions occupational therapists may use to enrich their patients’ treatments.
Additional examples of technologies that help occupational therapists and their patients include:
- Smartphone apps may aid with motor skills, handwriting and other hand-dexterity skills
- Video games can help both children and adults practice spatial reasoning
- Hearing assistive technologies can aid patients with hearing challenges
- Smart shoes may allow patients to better walk on their own without having to use assistive equipment
- Wearing robotic equipment can help improve walking, balance and coordination
How to Become an Occupational Therapist
People interested in a career in occupational therapy will likely need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and become certified through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).
If you’re not sure whether occupational therapy is for you, you can earn an associate degree and work as an occupation therapy assistant. While your responsibilities as an OTA may not be as broad as those of an occupational therapist, you will still gain valuable work experience from helping patients overcome their physical and mental challenges. Choosing to become an occupational therapy assistant can be a safer path if you’re trying to keep your career options open. It is also an excellent steppingstone toward a long-lasting and financially rewarding career in occupational therapy.
Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant with a Degree from St. Louis College of Health Careers
Our Missouri-based, six-semester Occupational Therapy Assistant program combines academic coursework with hands-on practice to create a well-rounded educational experience. As a SLCHC student, you’ll graduate with the necessary skills to adapt to the innovations and new technologies frequently found in modern healthcare.
To learn more about our healthcare programs, call 866-529-2070 or send us a message.