Updated: Aug 12
It is hard to believe that we are already in August with so much of the summer gone by so quickly, especially with COVID-19 bringing many of our typical summer activities to a halt! This week I am taking some time to pause and reflect on our progress and give you all a good ol' update on what we have been working on as of late.
It has been quite the journey to get to trials with real patients, so let me rewind a little. Our plans have shifted yet again from those I described in the last update. That last update was in early May and discussed how the pandemic has affected the project. Essentially we had started to refocus our project on seniors in long term care facilities, for a few reasons.
With the closure of clinics and physical distancing measures in place, we realized we would not be able to proceed as planned. COVID-19 gave our project a new direction as the pandemic had affected access to rehabilitation services for everyone, but seniors were especially vulnerable. We decided to move forward and trial Tele-Rehab 2.0 with seniors in order to support them during this difficult time while still being able to continue our work…. Only we didn’t get that far.
It seemed that just as we set to work with our new plan the pandemic chimed in and changed the circumstances yet again. The province had begun to open back up and in-person assessments were happening once more! Meanwhile, the not-for-profit senior’s care organization we connected with was not able to participate in the project until the Fall.
Things had fallen out and back into place all within a few weeks. In summary, we are back to the original plan, with proper safety precautions in place, but are still planning to work with the seniors population in the future. For now we have been able to start trials with rural and remote patients!
To start these trials was no small task. At the beginning of July, Martin and his wife Peggi set out on a 1600km round trip to deliver equipment to our remote sites. This trip really highlighted just how far these sites are from the city and what challenges the road trip can include. Martin and Peggi were met with the trials and tribulations of a washed-away highway outside of Jasper, being chased by thunderstorms in Northern Alberta, bumpy roads, and lots of sheep. This trip gave us a new perspective and belief in the project. After 19 months of planning we are actually getting to trial our technologies with real clinicians and patients!
Once the equipment had been delivered and set up came the “scheduling nightmare” as Emily, our project manager, so fondly called it. It was tough to coordinate a team of really busy clinicians, especially with our appointments taking longer than a standard appointment as everyone learned how to use the technology.
Eventually we made it happen and were able to introduce our rural site and hub clinicians to each other and complete a few practice trials. Nearly a month after dropping off the equipment we saw our first patient, and it went incredibly well! Since then we have seen a total of 3 patients, including vestibular and knee assessments, and have many more booked!
It is exciting to see the project come into the public view after being behind the scenes for so long. In just 3 assessments we have already learned so much. First, we have learned that having a team of rural site and hub clinicians consisting of Dan, Danny, Rachel, and Richelle is very confusing, but also that Tele-Rehab 2.0 is working for them!
Our hub clinicians are feeling confident in their diagnosis - in one session they even did a treatment! The Double Robot has been especially helpful for connecting with the patient and the Kinetisense component is starting to build normative data values for balance to provide a basis for comparison as we collect more vestibular patient data.
As we continue on with our trials we are learning more and more about the challenges of tele-rehab and how we are able to overcome them. So far we have had really positive responses and are excited to continue to see patients in more areas. Our trials are the accumulation of a great amount of effort and hard work, but are also just the beginning of getting our project out into the world, and I think the world is going to like us!