n. (context medicine English) rehabilitation (as of a drug user) by means of telecommunication or computer network.
Telerehabilitation (or e-rehabilitation
) is the delivery of rehabilitation services over telecommunication networks and the internet. Most types of services fall into two categories: clinical assessment (the patient's functional abilities in his or her environment), and clinical therapy. Some fields of rehabilitation practice that have explored telerehabilitation are: neuropsychology, speech-language pathology, audiology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Telerehabilitation can deliver therapy to people who cannot travel to a clinic because the patient has a disability or because of travel time. Telerehabilitation also allows experts in rehabilitation to engage in a clinical consultation at a distance.
Most telerehabilitation is highly visual. As of 2006 the most commonly used modalities are via webcams, videoconferencing, phone lines, videophones and webpages containing rich Internet applications. The visual nature of telerehabilitation technology limits the types of rehabilitation services that can be provided. It is most widely used for neuropsychological rehabilitation; fitting of rehabilitation equipment such as wheelchairs, braces or artificial limbs; and in speech-language pathology. Rich internet applications for neuropsychological rehabilitation (aka cognitive rehabilitation) of cognitive impairment (from many etiologies) was first introduced in 2001. This endeavor has recently (2006) expanded as a teletherapy application for cognitive skills enhancement programs for school children. Tele-audiology (hearing assessments) is a growing application. As of 2006, telerehabilitation in the practice of occupational therapy and physical therapy are very limited, perhaps because these two disciplines are more "hands on".
Two important areas of telerehabilitation research are (1) demonstrating equivalence of assessment and therapy to in-person assessment and therapy, and (2) building new data collection systems to digitize information that a therapist can use in practice. Ground-breaking research in telehaptics (the sense of touch) and virtual reality may broaden the scope of telerehabilitation practice, in the future.
In the United States, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research's (NIDRR) 1 supports research and the development of telerehabilitation. NIDRR's grantees include the "Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center" (RERC) at the University of Pittsburgh, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the State University of New York at Buffalo, and the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington DC. Other federal funders of research are the Veterans Administration, the Health Services Research Administration in the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense. Outside the United States, excellent research is conducted in Australia and Europe.
As of 2006, only a few health insurers in the United States will reimburse for telerehabilitation services. If the research shows that tele-assessments and tele-therapy are equivalent to clinical encounters, it is more likely that insurers and Medicare will cover telerehabilitation services.