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Where did February (and March) go?

Is it already April?? The last two months have whizzed away as we move into our 4th month of 2022! The team has continued to work at a steady pace throughout the month and we are so excited to let you know what we have been up to! These past two months may have seemed like a blur, but we have got some highlights to bring us back into focus.

First up, we are officially back on campus! Together, we have decided that a hybrid schedule will work best for us as the pandemic continues, with some days in person and others at home. Although only part-time, we are ecstatic to see all our team’s friendly faces working hard in the lab. While some of our students will miss waking up 10 minutes before a meeting and joining in from bed, the lab is happy to be full of people again. So far, we have been gently waking up all the tech that has been sitting around unused and enjoying our time back!

Speaking of people in the lab, we got to tour an extra special guest in February! MLA Rutherford came to visit us and it was our honour to show him around the lab and give him some insight into the work that we do. We have missed giving tours and this was a great way to break the ice and get back into the swing of things.

Additionally, 2 weeks ago we toured a biomedical engineering class around the lab! We love connecting with students on campus and showing them all the cool work that they could potentially get into. When working in a lab like ours, we value all kinds of differing perspectives and hope that we have inspired some of these students with the work that we have presented to them.

If you read our last blog, you probably have a good idea about falls risk and some of the research and services that we contribute to in this area. Throughout the month, we have been chipping away to submit a grant application to extend Ellah’s thesis project. A Master’s graduate in Rehabilitation Science, Ellah worked on updating a falls risk assessment tool that can be used virtually - and now we are ready to expand! Our goal with this extension is to develop better falls risk assessment and to create targeted exercise programs for seniors living in congregate living facilities. Individuality is extremely important to a patient's program and improvement is much quicker with specialized programming. Last year, we worked with the Evergreens Foundation (a group of seniors homes west of Edmonton) to gather data, conduct trials, and offer services to the residents living there. Our initial work showed great success and we are optimistic to continue our work with them! We have met with one patient already and are excited to progress alongside them.

In newer work, we have been progressing well on our long COVID project alongside Alberta Health Services’ Breathe Easy program. Patients with long COVID experience symptoms such as persistent breathlessness, long-term cough, and sometimes lung tissue scarring. About 20-30% of people who have recovered from COVID will experience these symptoms, which is a significant number. In the next couple of weeks, two new sites will be set up in St. Paul and Drayton Valley. Our work with long COVID will build off of our existing systems, which are already in place in multiple locations across the province. We will be testing new technology such as a respiratory rate sensor and a digital stethoscope, which we hope will improve some of our data collection techniques for these long COVID symptoms. Our main goal is, as always, to support patients closer to home.

In other work with AHS, we have successfully delivered equipment to two new sites in Taber and Drayton Valley. We are currently completing onboarding sessions, which allow us to run through practice sessions before patients come in - like a trial run! This ensures everything runs smoothly and everyone is familiar with the equipment and procedures prior to inviting our patients in. It's important to make sure our clinicians feel comfortable and confident with new technologies and processes before asking them to serve patients. This work is time consuming, but well worth the effort!

Now to shift gears a little bit. Over the past few months we have been developing a validation project for our shoulder surgery follow-up module. In collaboration with the Sturgeon hospital, we will be measuring range of motion for surgical patients using our virtual technologies while they are in clinic for their in-person follow up. This will allow us to directly compare the results that we get from virtual vs in-person measurements. If the technology proves to be as reliable as in-person services, this will be an excellent example of how technology can decrease the amount of travel that patients need to undergo, particularly for follow-up visits. This past Monday we were able to meet with our very first patient, and the assessment was very successful! We finished our measurements in less than 5 minutes and the patient was very receptive to the whole process.

Aside from our projects, a lot of our time has been dedicated to writing and submitting applications for grants. This is a grueling but important process, and we are always grateful for any extra support that can be provided to aid us with our projects.

Now that February and March are wrapped up - let’s take a look ahead! In April, will be hosting an event on making virtual care more accessible and standard in practice across Canada - Co-Designing the Virtual Clinic. Registration is now open and you can sign up via this link . We would love for you to join us and our guest speakers as we engage in conversation about the future of virtual care in Canada. This is the heart of the work we do here at Tele-Rehab and we hope you will all stay tuned to see what we can accomplish together!

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