Emerging mobile technology could be poised to change how care is delivered to patients who have left the confines of a rehabilitation facility.
Post-acute rehabilitation is a critical part of helping patients get back to as normal of a life as possible after an acute illness. Often that means extended stays at inpatient facilities and trips to outpatient clinics a few times per week. And, even when discharged from those settings, their recovery is often incomplete—they just no longer qualify for professional support.
Emerging mobile technology could be poised to change how we deliver this care. A recent abstract presented at the American College of Cardiology conference suggested significant benefits in the use of a smartphone app on outcomes in cardiac rehabilitation.
Going beyond apps, and even traditional health devices like blood pressure cuffs, advances in wearable sensors that monitor gait, position, and activity hint at a future where formal rehabilitation programs can be delivered remotely long after patients leave the confines of the rehabilitation facility.
In a recent study out of the Mayo Clinic, patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation post-myocardial infarction were offered the opportunity to use an app with the ability to track their progress and deliver daily supportive messaging as well as education material. In addition to greater improvements in body weight, blood pressure, and quality of life when compared to a non-user population, they also found a significant reduction in rehospitalization.
Granted, there are many confounders in this study, and a randomized trial (which is supposedly in the works) will give us far more insight into the incremental gains here. The data also has yet to be formally published.
That being said, it intuitively should make sense how an app could be useful here. Patients are often given plans for exercises and other activities outside their scheduled sessions and to continue after they are discharged from therapy. Apps offer a lot of potential uses here including:
• Just-in-time support to encourage execution of personalized plans
• Improved tracking to enable more effective follow up
• Potential mechanism for remote monitoring and support
• Integration with social media to help engage friends and family
• More robust options for delivering ongoing education
Furthermore, the embedded functionality of mobile devices offers interesting opportunities for more sophisticated rehabilitation programs.