What is Tele-Rehabilitation 2.0?
In Alberta, approximately 24 per cent of the population lives in rural and remote locations, and for these patients, access to rehabilitation assessment and treatment is challenging. Most community-based services receive limited funding from the public health system, even in urban settings. In rural areas, this challenge is even greater due to the lack of available specialists. Those in remote and rural locations therefore have to travel long distances to access the same services that urban residents have in their own backyards. Not only do they have to pay for travel expenses, but they also lose out on the support of their community, experience diminished productivity and work wages and often have to arrange for child care.
But with Tele-Rehab 2.0, we can help.
The Tele-Rehabilitation 2.0 (or Tele-Rehab 2.0) program uses technology to mediate communication between remote patients/clinicians and urban specialists. This system will not only allow for better access to care, but will also provide opportunities for data collection to support the development of improved evidence-based clinical pathways.
The goal of Tele-Rehab 2.0 is not just to improve rehabilitation for remote patients, but to change the face of rehabilitation forever. We aim to provide equal access to quality care for all Albertans, regardless of identity or ability.
How does it work?
Our idea hinges on the development of a Virtual Rehabilitation Platform (VRP), designed to use novel sensor technologies for patient measurements. Our newly developed software integrates data collected from Kinetisense (a markerless motion capture system), sensors, camera equipment and more, and sends it to an urban hub where a specialist clinician can use this information to provide an accurate assessment for the patient. The remote clinical assessment process will be guided by a set of clinical ‘storyboards,’ which have been generated by specialists at the University of Alberta.
The Tele-Rehab 2.0 Project will focus on remote and rural populations. However, the technology and processes developed through this project will be able to be applied to mobility impaired patients, isolated patients and others in any location.
What treatments and assessments will be provided?
The four areas of focus in the pilot project are shoulder pain, hip and knee replacements, vertigo and balance and wheelchair special seating assessment. The program will provide patients with access to thorough assessments and communication with a specialist, as well as at-home exercises and individualized training programs.
What else will Tele-Rehab 2.0 do?
We anticipate the discoveries and processes developed throughout Tele-Rehabilitation 2.0 will extend to every aspect of health care, but for the near future, we have more immediate extensions in mind: the development of a free-access referatory and remotely fitted orthotics.
The referatory emerged from the dream of creating a vehicle for barrier-free communication and access to information for all Albertans. It aims to provide easily accessible information on geographical, medicinal and health-care resources. Imagine the referatory to be a nexus of information narrowed down for Albertans living in remote areas.
In terms of orthotics, there is a critical need for low-cost, practical, customizable orthotics that can be fitted remotely in rural Alberta. For rural and remote families, the need to travel several times between their residence and the city orthotics center results unnecessarily in increased costs and added discomfort. Currently, there is very limited literature describing any remote fitting procedures for custom orthotics within rural communities. By assessing current remote fitting procedures, our new exploratory study will provide a potential solution to reduce these orthotic challenges, allowing for a more unified and accessible Alberta.
The potential for other avenues of Tele-Rehabilitation 2.0 will also be explored throughout this project. The need for improved rural stroke rehabilitation and conservative management for osteoarthritis has already been identified, but we are always open to other areas of rehabilitation and health care that could benefit from this platform.