Anatomical Concepts (UK)
Masters of Rehabilitation Engineering

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What technology in rehabilitation can't fix

Derek Jones 

Derek Jones 

I love the miracles that technology can help enable in rehabilitation, but at the same time I know that “more technology” alone will not solve the main issues that people face in recovering from a catastrophic injury.  It's not about money, although I'm conscious that often we are dealing with a "lucky" few (the tip of the iceberg) that can afford our products and service. 

So what am I suggesting?  I had a couple of examples this week that might just point to the reason for my unease.

Anyone that has heard me talk about technology will have heard me say that there are no perfect products and that to get the best out of technology we also need "people skills" - knowledge, experience and good therapy.  In fact with many of the products we deal with, the “therapy" needs to be much more like being a sports coach.  Without the engagement and commitment of the client they will not get the results they deserve.  Many times we hear clients say that they previously felt abandoned or unsupported during their contact with healthcare professionals who are trying to guard them against “false hope”.  The danger is that clients lose hope all together and do nothing.

The partner of one of our clients contacted me this week about an issue but made a side remark that really shocked me.

Our NHS OT took away our left thermoplastic wrist splint a year ago as it was marking him - with the intention of making a new one with the local community Physio - but never did - it was beyond her. The left hand then deteriorated. She took away the right thermoplastic wrist splint in July this year as it had a crack. This worried me as there was some extension movement in that wrist.

Our physiotherapy partner commented on another client

They informed me that no one is willing or knows what to do with XXXX. She has been discharged from her neurologist with "there is nothing more we can do". XXXX was told she could not do leg exercise on a MOTOmed due to her tone. Don't get me wrong her tone is severe, MAS grade 5, but she can actively leg crank for a time and was able to move her legs on command (slightly). Doing nothing is not an option.

Is something fundamentally wrong here or am I missing an important point? No amount of technology will fix these types of issues.  I can't believe that anyone sets out to do a bad job or deliberately misleads so we need to do a much better job about education and awareness of possibilities.