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Neuro rehab technology

Remote technology ‘supports quicker discharge’

Study focused on occupational therapists and use of video technology to complete home assessment

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Remote technologies are supporting occupational therapists to get patients home quicker and support families better, new research has found. 

Using remote video consultations to assess a patient’s home environment allowed for speedier hospital discharge and freed up vital staff time and NHS resource for other care. 

The study, from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, also found the importance of the decrease in staff travel time, and how using remote technology helped family members and carers – who do not always live near the relatives or loved ones – to participate in assessments without the need for them to travel.

Home visit assessments are undertaken by occupational therapists to ensure that patients, many of whom are recovering from neurological illnesses and injury, are able to live as an independent a life as possible through adaptations to their home environment, such as fitting handrails.

However, the research also identified some limitations which would need to be considered for each patient. This included the reliability and security of internet connection, digital exclusion and the difficulty of checking for certain environmental hazards without in-person visits. 

New guidelines on the technology’s use have now been published by the research team.

While this research was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, its findings come as evidence of the important role remote rehab and telehealth can play – and increasingly are playing – in healthcare.

Vitaveska Lanfranchi, senior lecturer in medical computing at the University of Sheffield, who helped design and evaluate the prototype virtual home assessment tool, said: “Telehealth technology can support efficient and effective healthcare. 

“It can enable people to be more involved in their consultations, and in managing their health. Our guidelines were informed by the experience of service users and professionals. We hope they will guide the development of home assessment tools.”

Natalie Jones, clinical academic occupational therapist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and principal investigator of the study, said: “There has been a rapid increase in the use of technology and virtual home assessments in the last few years, in part accelerated by the pandemic. 

“Although this study was undertaken prior to COVID-19, our findings provide a vital picture of how virtual home assessments are used, what public perceptions are and what barriers to implementation can be. 

“We hope this insight will support future studies and enable clinicians to consider the advantages and challenges of using the technology in this way.”

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