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Study Boosts Case for Telehealth for Complex Rehab

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

Article originally featured on HMENews

Telehealth can be effective in providing complex rehab technology, including custom-designed and custom-fitted manual and power wheelchairs, to veterans, according to two recent studies published in the International Journal of Telerehabilitation.

The first study involved a cohort of veterans with disabilities who were assessed by a therapist through telehealth in their home for CRT and then compared to a matched sample of non-veterans who were assessed through traditional in-person methods. The study found pre- and post-scores on the Functional Mobility Assessment questionnaire were similar. The second study found veterans and providers were satisfied with using telehealth for complex rehab technology needs and that veterans often preferred telehealth.

“Providing properly fitted mobility equipment is a consumer-centered process that involves several steps, interdisciplinary communication and assessment of the person’s natural living situation,” said Dr. Brad Dicianno, study investigator and medical director at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL), which conducted the research with the University of Pittsburgh’s Rehabilitation Science and Technology Department.

“Regardless of the current pandemic, for people with disabilities, accessing appropriate services can be a challenge, especially given limited mobility, medical conditions that prevent travel, equipment that is in disrepair or inaccessible transportation.”

The research was funded through the MyVA Access Improvement Project, a partnership between the VA’s Office of the Under Secretary for Health and the Office of Rural Health. The findings provide further understanding to the benefits of telehealth for complex rehab technology and can serve as evidence to support continued investigation and use of these methods beyond the current public health emergency, says Mark Schmeler, an associate professor with the Rehabilitation Science and Technology Department.

“I have personally noted more meaningful information when I can observe a person engaged in mobility related activities of daily living in their natural environment versus what is assessed in a clinical setting,” said Schmeler, an OT/ATP.


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