Can Digital Technology Improve Rehabilitation Management?
17 June 2022
By Manjula Marella, Felix Kiefel-Johnson and Christopher Waterworth, Nossal Institute for Global Health, for ReLAB-HS
As digital technology becomes more affordable and digital literacy increases, what are the opportunities to incorporate digital tools into healthcare delivery, especially as it relates to rehabilitation and assistive technology?
Effective rehabilitation requires identification of an individual’s functioning needs and the ability to connect them to the appropriate services. In low-resource settings, where there is a scarcity of trained professionals, community and primary health care workers are often the first point of contact for individuals with rehabilitation needs. Connecting users to appropriate and timely support depends on accurate information about their needs getting to the right people at the right time.
Technology can transform how healthcare and rehabilitation are provided through systematic decision-making, and this is one of the focus areas for Learning, Acting and Building for Rehabilitation in Health Systems (ReLAB-HS). However, how technologies can be developed and implemented in diverse contexts is complex. Researchers at the Nossal Institute for Global Health collaborated with World Education Inc. in 2019 to develop the Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID) Modular Tool, which is an innovative approach designed to assist local staff to efficiently and reliably identify the health, rehabilitation, social and economic needs of service users in Laos. A key function of the tool is the ability to automatically analyze analyze user information collected by the CBID worker using the tool, and instantly guide case managers about appropriate intervention plans. Data from the Modular Tool facilitate discussions with individuals with rehabilitation needs and their families to make informed decisions to prioritize interventions. Data collected over time also support monitoring changes to the rehabilitation needs and for measuring outcomes.
The Modular Tool is currently implemented in two districts in Laos, the Kham District in Xieng Khouang Province and Xayphouthong District in Savannakhet Province. This is a unique opportunity to understand how technologies are adopted and used, and how they influence practice in real-time. ReLAB-HS is working with a Laos-based research consultant to evaluate how the CBID Modular Tool could improve access to rehabilitation and assistive technology. This research will inform ReLAB-HS’s thinking in using digital data collection tools to support integrating rehabilitation into primary health care and community settings in ReLAB-HS-supported countries.
Our initial findings are expected to be available in 2023.
ReLAB-HS is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development.