Emerging Technologies in Rehabilitation for Complex Injuries and Conditions
Importance of Innovative Technology in Rehabilitation[edit | edit source]
Innovative technology has grown substantially in the rehabilitation setting. Rehabilitation professionals are often involved in testing, developing and modifying new and existing technology alongside engineers and development teams. These innovations can improve rehabilitation, prevent decline and regression, monitor changes and help maintain healthy living. The ultimate aim of innovative technology is to improve the quality of life for individuals with complex injuries and conditions.
Innovative technology has the ability to:
- enhance the treatment and management of complex injuries and conditions
- make rehabilitation more effective, efficient and patient-centred
- reduce environmental barriers
- for example, smart home devices can perform tasks with little human input
- innovative equipment can help decrease the impact of impairments on activity and participation
- connect people and enable individuals to provide support to each other in real-time
- for example, social media and internet support groups for people with similar injuries and conditions
If innovative technology is to be effective for individuals with complex injuries and conditions, rehabilitation professionals need to stay up to date with the latest emerging technologies.
Emerging Technologies in Rehabilitation[edit | edit source]
Telerehabilitation[edit | edit source]
Telerehabilitation refers to the delivery of rehabilitation services by any rehabilitation professional through digital methods (i.e. information and communication technologies). With the advances in communication technology, telerehabilitation has now become a viable option for delivery of rehabilitation services. As outlined in Table 1, its use and effectiveness have been tested in various complex injuries and conditions.
|Complex Injury/Condition||Telerehabilitation Research|
|Spinal cord injuries||
|Traumatic brain injury|
Benefits and Challenges of Telerehabilitation[edit | edit source]
|Increased access to care||Access to technology|
|Reduced travel burden||Privacy concerns|
|Time-saving aspect with regards to travel time to the clinic but also taking time off from work to attend in-person appointments||Training for proper use and implementation (both patient and rehabilitation professional)|
|Quicker/expedited access to care|
|Provides opportunities for rehabilitation professionals to assess a person's needs within their home|
Virtual Reality Therapy[edit | edit source]
Virtual reality therapy uses immersive computer-generated environments that simulate real-life scenarios through visual and auditory channels for rehabilitation purposes.
|Complex injury/condition||Virtual Reality Research|
|Traumatic brain injury||
|Spinal cord injuries||
Benefits and Challenges of Virtual Reality Therapy[edit | edit source]
|Effective in patient treatments (e.g. improved balance and gait)||Implementation of the system (e.g. high costs, technical limitations, and availability of suitable games for rehabilitation)|
|Motor development (e.g. increased motor skills and mobility)||Applicability information is lacking - research on standardised methods to perform exercises, standardised times or application periods is still necessary (i.e. evidence-based protocols)|
|Patient independence encouraged (e.g. increased quality of life, reduced anxiety)||Patient-related factors, such as follow-up period and drop-out rates|
|Increased patient motivation||Potential motion sickness|
|Ability to adapt therapy sessions to individual needs|
Wearable Technology[edit | edit source]
Wearable technology refers to devices worn on the body that can monitor, track or enhance different aspects of health and well-being. In focus group discussions with persons with stroke and physiotherapists on the potential benefits of wearable technology to support the motivation for home exercise, the following conclusions were drawn:
- The wearable technology should be flexible as patients and rehabilitation professionals have multi-faceted needs. These needs relate to:
- design of technology
- the way feedback is provided
- the way use of this technology will support patient motivation and cooperation
- A patient's use of wearable technology depends "as much on their trust in the professional and relational competence of the physiotherapist as the technical issues of an app".
Wearable technology is generally used in the following contexts:
- prediction of future events
- detection of critical events
- diagnostic monitoring to improve decision-making
In rehabilitation, some examples of wearable technology include:
- Advanced wearable sensors
- inertial measurement units
- body-worn sensors (e.g. chest-worn heart-monitoring straps, headbands for brain activity, posture-detecting monitors)
- smart clothing (e.g. in hand rehabilitation, a smart glove and associated technology can be used to aid therapy)
|Complex injury/condition||Wearable technology research|
|Limb loss||Functional mobility during everyday life can be measured with wearable technology in persons with lower limb amputations and information from this can be used to aid in prosthetic prescription or in the assessment of various interventions and treatments.|
|Multiple orthopaedic trauma||Wearable activity monitors, such as accelerometry and plantar force measurements can be used to measure specific outcomes, provide objective evidence for physical activity and help to personalise treatment plans in persons after orthopaedic trauma surgery.|
|Stroke||The use of wearable technology in persons with stroke can reduce bias in measurements and estimations. It can also reduce assessment time for rehabilitation professionals. Rehabilitation can be improved through home-based therapies being monitored and designed remotely, but allowing the patient to train in a safe and familiar environment.|
|Ageing populations||Wearable technology can be used for fall identification and prevention and disease management.|
Benefits and Challenges of Wearable Technology[edit | edit source]
|Continious monitoring||Device accuracy|
|Early intervention||Standardisation of methods and equipment|
|Personalised care||Privacy and confidentiality of information|
|Need for user-friendly designs|
Robotics and Exoskeletons[edit | edit source]
Robotics and exoskeletons involve the use of mechanical devices that assist or augment human movement. Read more on Robotic Rehabilitation for the Lower Extremity and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation using Robotics.
Factors that affect the implementation of robotics and exoskeletons in clinical rehabilitation include:
- having sufficient knowledge of the characteristics of the device
- proper training for rehabilitation professionals to use the technology
- availability of resources
- communication between members of the multidisciplinary team
- patient expectations need to be managed, realistic and shared therapeutic goals are important
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Rehabilitation[edit | edit source]
Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to a collection of technologies (machine learning, natural language processing, rule-based expert systems, robotics) that analyse data and find patterns which facilitate decision-making, diagnosis, treatment recommendations and follow-up.
Benefits and Challenges of AI[edit | edit source]
|Improve patient care||Ethical issues with data privacy|
|Streamline rehabilitation processes||Impact of automation on the rehabilitation workforce|
Augmented Reality[edit | edit source]
Augmented reality involves the generation of new images from digital information in a person's real physical environment. It enhances a person's perception and interaction with their environment. It shows potential in areas of physical performance, balance and falls prevention treatment and improvement of pain in phantom pain syndrome, as well as lower and upper limb functionality in stroke. Further research regarding its efficacy is still needed.
|Complex injury/condition||Augmented Reality Research|
|Stroke||Augmented reality shows promising results in the improvement of neuroplasticity and enhancing quality of life in persons with stroke when used with conventional therapy.|
|Parkinson's||Augmented reality provides a playful and integrative nature to rehabilitation, and similar results are seen with postural control in persons with Parkinson's as compared to neurofunctional physiotherapy.|
Outcome Measurements in Patients with Complex Injuries and Conditions[edit | edit source]
- Six Minute Walk Test
- Functional Independence Measure (FIM)
- Berg Balance Scale
- Visual Analogue Scale
- Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire
Resources[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
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