Anatomical Concepts (UK)
Masters of Rehabilitation Engineering

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Opinions on technology for rehabilitation



What holds back technological innovation in rehabilitation?  At a recent presentation at the Neurological Rehabilitation Expo in London, Derek Jones was asked a couple of questions about what holds back innovation and what would he like to see in the future. Here is what he said:

Q: To what extent is innovation in healthcare inhibited by our current resource-strained culture? How can this be addressed?

A: If it wasn't resource constraints it would be something else that inhibits innovation.  We cant allow progress to be stopped by a poor excuse - or any excuse.

Innovation is “messy” and a challenge to most of us who like the "comfort of the known" to the uncomfortable and scary unknown.  Whenever we set a goal for the future it is completely understandable that we immediately see barriers to achieving those goals. What I hear so often is lack of resource being used as a reason to retreat into inaction. This can be addressed via leadership - and by creating health care environments that help the attitudes and beliefs of the majority to feel more comfortable with uncertainty and risk.

Q: In your opinion, in what ways will the role of technology and innovation change the face of rehabilitation in the future?

A: None of us has a crystal ball and predictions of which technologies are going to have the biggest impact are likely to be wrong.  Generally things that emerge “suddenly” and grab public awareness probably have had a longer evolution that most people realise - 30 years or more. Rehabilitation at its best is individually tuned - and technology should ideally both provide compensation and support for what the individual lacks in terms of function but also contribute to restitution - functional recovery. Most rehab technology is either to compensate for what is lacking or is therapy/restitution oriented. I would like to see more technology that achieves both compensation and functional recovery in the same package. An example might be an orthotic system or an exoskeleton and also incorporates FES so that supported muscles and limbs get stronger with use.