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Improving rehabilitation technologies for remote healthcare

Investigating how technologies can help the integration of rehabilitation services with remote and home healthcare is the focus of Dr Camila Shirota’s Advance Queensland Fellowship.

A postdoctoral research fellow with The Hopkins Centre, Dr Shirota is an expert in biomechanics, motor control of gait and adoption of technology into clinical practice.

Her project will assess the application of existing and new technologies (including mixed reality) such as personalised devices (activity trackers, mobile phones, wearable sensors) and robotics (wearable exoskeletons, robotics-based therapy) for rehabilitation services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the delivery of healthcare, especially in areas that require physical interaction, such as disability and rehabilitation, the doctor stated.

This project will develop a new technology needs assessment framework which will be used to accelerate the uptake of remote technology in rehabilitation settings across Queensland.

The doctor will lead a multidisciplinary team, including people with disability, to focus on needs-based assessment of technology and testing of new technology solutions suitable for rehabilitation in virtual healthcare environments that can be integrated with home healthcare.

The doctor noted that the contribution of her partners is essential to the project’s success. The engagement of multiple stakeholders – including a strong team of researchers, industry experts and consumer researchers – will ensure a broad range of consumer needs are considered and project outcomes are shared, as well as opportunities to influence and translate findings into policy and practice.

This Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship is supported by The Hopkins Centre, Queensland’s leading disability and rehabilitation research centre, founded by Menzies Health Institute of Queensland, Griffith University and the Division of Rehabilitation at Metro South Hospital and Health Service. Affiliate partners include Queensland Motor Accident Insurance Commission, Spinal Life Australia and Gold Coast Health, as well as project collaborators University of Queensland and ARM Hub.

According to another recent article, local doctors are urging the Australian government to extend Medicare-subsidised telehealth services as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The service is due to end 30 September but the government has said it will consider an extension on the advice of an expert medical panel.

The President of the Australian Medical Association stated that the September deadline was decided when there was optimism the nation would be over the worst of coronavirus.

It is now known that the virus will last well past the end of September. Telehealth remains fundamental to national efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ending the temporary Medicare arrangements in September would be premature.

The scheme is vital to ensure Australians who are self-isolating can still access medical care. The AMA said a March 2021 deadline would align with the end date for JobKeeper wage subsidies.

Labor supports the push, with opposition health spokesman stating that telehealth has reduced coronavirus risks for patients and health workers.

The extension should include both telephone and videoconference items to maintain access and choice for patients and providers, including those who can’t access video services.

And the extension period must be used to agree on a long-term future for telehealth as part of broader efforts to boost the quality and coordination of care.

Patients can access telehealth services through Medicare if they are a regular patient of a GP or medical practice, or have been an active patient within the past year.

Marie Stopes Australia and the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine say there should be an exception for sexual and reproductive healthcare. Without that, the groups say it’s harder for Australians to access medical termination of pregnancy and HIV prevention.

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