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Remote Rehabilitation: A Solution to Overloaded & Scarce Health Care Systems

Submission: July 09, 2018;Published: August 27, 2018


The population across Northern Europe is aging. Coupled with socio-economic challenges, health care systems are at risk of overloading and incurring unsustainable high costs. Rehabilitation services are used disproportionately by older people. One solution pertinent to rural areas is to change the model of rehabilitation to incorporate new technologies. This has the potential to free resources and reduce costs. However, implementation is challenging. In the Northern Periphery and Artic Programme (NPA), the Smart sensor Devices for rehabilitation and Connected health (SENDoc) project [1] is focused on introducing wearable sensor systems among elderly communities to support their rehabilitation. It is important to understand the context into which change is introduced. Therefore, an overview of the current state of health care systems in the four partner countries is presented, defining the concept of rehabilitation and how remote rehabilitation is currently delivered. Advantages (e.g. enhanced outcomes, less cost and enhanced patient engagement), and disadvantages of remote rehabilitation (e.g. complexity involved in the use of technology, design and safety issues) are discussed. It is concluded that the key advantage of remote rehabilitation is the potential to support change in patient behaviour, empowering active participation and living independently, with less need to travel for face-to-face sessions. Remote rehabilitation can make enhance quality of health care service delivery.

However, all relevant stakeholders including medical staff and patients should be included in the design of the technology employed with a focus on simplicity, usability and robustness. Compliance with Security and the new GDPR regulation will be key to supporting remote rehabilitation. In addition, the diversity of available platforms and devices must also be supported to ensure interoperability. Finally, remote rehabilitation needs to be further validated in practice. Attempts to implement and sustain change should be cognisant of local and current organization of health care and of existing enablers and barriers.

Keywords: Elder; Health care; Remote rehabilitation; SENDoc; Wearable sensor technologies

Abbreviations: COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; EU: European Union; GAS: Goal Attainment Scaling; GP: General Practitioner; HCP: Home Care Package; HSC: Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland; ICF: International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health; ICO: Information Commissioner’s Office; IGA: Information Governance Alliance; ITTS: Implementing Transnational Telemedicine Solutions; KELA: The Social Insurance Institution of Finland; MCRN: Managed Clinical Rehabilitation Networks; NCPRM: National Clinical Programme for Rehabilitation Medicine; NHS: National Health Service; NPA: Northern Periphery and Artic Programme; RI: Rehabilitation International; SENDoc: Smart Sensor Devices for rehabilitation and Connected health; UCC: University College Cork; UK: United Kingdom; VLL: Västerbottens Läns Landsting; WHO: World Health Organization

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