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Advancing Rehabilitation with Technology in Singapore

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For patients who need physical therapy after a stroke, painful injury or debilitating illness, getting them to stay motivated and committed to their rehabilitation programme can be a tough sell. By leveraging novel smart technologies like virtual reality (VR) and gamification, physiotherapists at SingHealth institutions, such as Sengkang General Hospital (SKH), have found new and efficient ways to help patients meet their rehabilitation goals while allowing therapists to monitor their progress and recovery more efficiently.

The latest high-technology addition to SKH’s outpatient rehabilitation gym is a brand of senior-friendly smart computerised exercise equipment designed for safe and effective strength and power training. The majority of patients seen at the outpatient rehabilitation clinic have conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, vestibular issues, as well as cardiac and pulmonary conditions.

Unlike most strengthening equipment that is bilaterally designed (involving two sides), the HUR system allows for unilateral (one-sided) limb strengthening to meet the needs of patient rehabilitation. The system also allows physiotherapists to pre-set customised resistance and repetitions for each patient. Patients can access the information on the machine independently to track their progress, reducing the need for assistance or guidance.

Therapists can focus on the patient and treatment in a more precise and targeted way. The rehabilitation intensity of the patient is also not limited to the physical constraints of the assisting therapists, which is a concern in traditional rehabilitation. The use of technology would also result in more consistent training.

– Ms Tay Ee Ling Senior Principal Physiotherapist, Sengkang General Hospital

There are also VR-enhanced treadmills. Using VR simulations and intelligent feedback, patients navigate obstacles and different terrains while improving their mobility, balance, and fitness levels. Technological equipment that incorporates VR and gaming make otherwise mundane rehabilitation activities like walking fun and interactive, thereby increasing patient interest and participation.

Importantly, smart technology is a good add-on to existing rehabilitation techniques, and is beneficial for both patients and therapists — patients are more actively involved and take ownership of their training, while the physical workload of therapists is reduced, enabling them to spend more time engaging with patients and better cater to each individual’s needs.

The SKH team is looking into the use of technology and remote monitoring to support patients at home. It is currently working on a collaborative research project with SingHealth institutions, including Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and SingHealth Community Hospitals (SCH), to prevent falls among the elderly.

Technology is becoming more prevalent. However, key components in a patient’s journey, such as human connection and touch, are still integral parts of physiotherapy, and physiotherapists will be there to journey with the patients through their recovery.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, SingHealth and SGInnovate announced a three-year partnership to build and scale up health science innovations today, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare as the first area of focus. The partnership seeks to advance the development and adoption of AI as well as other emerging technologies to improve diagnostics and treatment, and enhance healthcare delivery and clinical outcomes for Singapore and beyond. Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Health, witnessed the inking of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by both parties today.

The partnership looks to tap into each organisation’s strengths – SingHealth’s extensive clinical and research capabilities and pool of clinicians and healthcare innovators, together with SGInnovate’s Deep Tech expertise and diverse community of corporates, startups and innovators – to maximise the potential of health science innovation. It will focus on three main areas: Advancing AI thought leadership in healthcare and innovation communities, supporting the growth of startups and their innovations in the fields of health and biomedical sciences, as well as building the health innovation talent pool in Singapore and beyond.


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