Tele-Rehab, Serving to Stroke Sufferers Recuperate at House

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Tele-Rehab, Helping Stroke Patients Recover at Home

Telehealth may not have been a priority before 2020 unless you live in a rural or hard-to-reach area, but nowadays many people are facing the new reality of doctor appointments online or over the phone. Telemedicine isn't just reserved for talking to your doctor or nurse about medical issues, however. It can also be part of a rehabilitation program after a serious illness such as a stroke.

In 2004, a group of Italian scientists conducted a study to see if a remote operator using "advanced communication technology" could help rehabilitate stroke patients at home. The study lasted only 4 weeks, but the researchers concluded that "Telerehabilitation could be a new home therapy for treated disabled people".

16 years later, a new study from the University of British Columbia in Canada confirms that telerehabilitation works for patients recovering from a stroke.

Telerehabilitation offers alternatives

"Telerehabilitation has been promoted as a more efficient means of delivering rehabilitation services to stroke patients while providing care options for those unable to attend conventional therapy," said Brodie Sakakibara, PhD, the newspaper's co-author, in a press release. Dr. Sakakibara is at the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management (CCDPM).

The study data comes from 6 different clinical studies started across Canada as part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation initiative. People who had recovered from a stroke were offered interventions ranging from lifestyle coaching to memory, language skills and physical exercise. "Researchers from each of the six studies came together to write a review paper describing their experiences in conducting a telerehabilitation study and to report on the easements and barriers to implementing tele-rehabilitation services in the research context," said Dr. Sakakibara.

According to Dr. Sakakibara provided important tele-rehab lessons with each attempt. Among the lessons was that the cost and effectiveness of tele-rehab are similar to traditional face-to-face programs. In addition, patients were most satisfied with tele-rehabilitation when the therapists were well trained and engaged in social interaction. However, clinicians preferred personal rehab, but used tele-rehab when necessary.

As strokes are more commonly associated with older adults, the technology of a tele-rehab program needs to be easier to use.

"Today's older adult is different from tomorrow's older adult in terms of technology convenience and usability," said Dr. Sakakibara. "While current older adults may be reluctant to use technology to get health and rehab benefits, tomorrow's older adult community is likely to be very pleased with technology."

Previous studies had similar results

The Canadian study is the latest study to confirm the use of tele-rehabilitation in stroke patients. In a 6-week study from 2018 that included 124 stroke patients in 11 American cities, researchers at the University of California at Irvine found that stroke patients with telerehabilitation did as well as those who received personal therapy.

"The current results support the usefulness of a home computerized system used under the supervision of a licensed therapist to provide clinically meaningful rehab therapy," said Steven C. Cramer, MD, whose research team is part of the National Institutes of Health StrokeNet Consortium said in a press release.

Even before research concluded that stroke telerehabilitation was working, hospitals and medical systems included it in stroke recovery programs. "Tele-rehabilitation is widely and successfully used to help people recover from stroke and other illnesses," wrote Ana Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, in an email to Medical Daily.

ATA's special interest group on telerehabilitation includes a wide range of rehabilitation professionals, including occupational therapists and physiotherapists, speech pathologists, rehabilitation doctors and nurses, neuropsychologists and political experts.

The pandemic has changed the profile of telehealth

In the last 6 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened the profile of telehealth significantly. According to a CNBC report, analysts forecast 36 million visits to general health care in 2020. When the pandemic hit that number, it rose to 200 million by the end of the year.

But telemedicine in all its forms has already carved out its niche in conventional medicine. According to Medical Economics, patient acceptance of telemedicine increased by 33% at the beginning of 2020 compared to the previous year. Telehealth funding is projected to reach $ 185.6 billion by 2026.

Once these programs are put into practice, they will be part of the norm even after the outbreak is over, ”said Dr. Sakakibara. "It is important that we develop and study telerehabilitation programs to ensure the programs are effective and benefit patients."

Robert Calandra is an award-winning journalist and author who has written extensively on health and medicine. His work has been published in national and regional magazines and newspapers.

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