Where does technology fit in during rehabilitation?

As rehabilitation professionals we know the importance of incorporating “active ingredients” such as motivation, intensity, repetitions and progression into therapeutic exercise interventions. Technology can play an important role in achieving these active ingredients in the rehabilitation process.

Envision going to the clinic for your physiotherapy session and playing videogames which focus on improving your balance and reaction time. Picture using activity tracking device (example: Fitbit, Garmin, Nokia Steel, MisFit…) to help you stay motivated on a daily basis to increase your activity level by keeping track of your step count while being able to give you therapist objective at your next session. Think about having full access to your rehabilitation specialist from the comfort of your home simply by turning on your computer and video camera. These are all examples of financially accessible use of technology in rehabilitation. Sure, there is a whole other world of robotic technology out there but that is not as easily accessible and will be convert in a future BLOG!

Virtual reality

Virtual reality in form of video or “exergaming” allows the therapist to create an enjoyable setting to deliver the rehabilitation exercise. The key words here is ENJOYABLE! Enjoying the rehabilitation activity can lead to increase engagement which enable you to do this activity for a longer period of time. More rehabilitation activity = potential positive changes in motor or cognitive capacities.

Activity Tracking Device

 Activity tracking devices are easy to use and can provide quantifiable information related to the physical activity amounts throughout the rehabilitation process. For instance, monitoring heart rate and blood pressure on a daily basis can provide the therapist information about the patient’s routine, optimal intensities for rehabilitation, and criteria for discharge.

Tele-rehabilitation

Tele-rehabilitation uses telecommunication technology to relay information between the patient and therapist through videoconferencing. For example, videoconferencing with your physiotherapist can help you connect with a specialist even if you live in a remote area or if you are unable to travel to a regularly to a rehabilitation clinic.

So, to answer the question: Where does technology fit in in rehabilitation? I think it depends on the rehabilitation goals, the comfort level with technology, your access to  and the desire to step outside of our traditional rehabilitation setting.

Now, I encourage you to go and explore the use of technology in your rehabilitation process!

Jennifer O’Neil, PT, C/NDT,

PhD (candidate) Rehabilitation Sciences University of Ottawa

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