Why was there a need for the virtual rehabilitation technology?
In Denmark, the municipalities take care of rehabilitation patients, which has become very expensive due to the country’s current age demographic, overcrowded hospitals and the expense of looking after the growing number of citizens with chronic conditions. In an effort to reduce the number of rehabilitation patients being readmitted to hospitals, the Danish Technological Institute asked Welfare Denmark to develop an interactive platform that citizens could use to perform rehabilitative exercises at home, at work, or in community centres.
How does the Virtual Rehabilitation solution work?
Virtual Rehabilitation is an interactive platform that uses Microsoft Lync 2010 and Skype to guide rehabilitation patients through physical therapy exercise programmes at home. Each patient receives a Kinect for Windows device, which includes a camera and a depth sensor that can track their movements and gestures. This helps to provide real-time guidance and also allows healthcare practitioners to monitor patients’ progress remotely. The device also has a multi-array microphone, enabling patients and physiotherapists to communicate via instant messaging or videoconferencing. Welfare Denmark is the only company in the world to use a commercialised version of Kinect for rehabilitation purposes.
What benefits does it offer healthcare providers and the patients?
We have had enormously positive feedback from patients who have used our solution because even though they are exercising at home, the technology makes its feel as if a professional is personally guiding them through the programme. Citizens also love the fact that they can train more regularly and flexibly at a time that suits them.
In addition, the solution has many benefits for the municipalities and healthcare providers. For example, in Esbjerg – the first Danish municipality to adopt the device – the solution was used to treat a 73-year old man over a three-month period. This saved the municipality nearly US$2,500 by eliminating the need for two home visits per month by referred therapists and for five days at a rehabilitation centre.
Where has the solution been deployed?
Virtual Rehabilitation was launched in April 2012, when it was adopted by Esbjerg, Denmark. Since then, another 30 Danish municipalities have bought the solution, while Sweden and Norway have just purchased the rights to use the platform. We are also in the middle of ongoing negotiations with China and the Middle East about buying rights, while we’ve had enquiries from countries across the globe including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore. Even President Obama’s national health team has plans to use our technology for US rehabilitation patients – everyone needs this type of solution because the current demographic is an issue in all industrialised countries.
How will virtual technology be used more widely across the healthcare industry in the future?
Virtual technology is one of the mega-trends at the moment and it will continue to grow rapidly as it has the potential to help countries all over the world overcome the biggest healthcare challenges, such as rising costs and services inequalities. Virtual healthcare solutions will become even more important as countries struggle to provide enough healthcare practitioners – or ‘warm hands’ as we call them in Denmark – to treat outpatients in hospitals or rehabilitation centres.
Technology like ours is also strategically important for Microsoft, as it will greatly improve global healthcare. Through the CityNext initiative, Microsoft is enabling governments to take advantage of a broad range of solutions that improve healthcare infrastructures and increase community access to various health and social services.
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