Physiotherapy is coming to a lounge room near you with a University of Queensland lecturer inventing a system to treat patients over the internet via webcam.
Patients and physiotherapists can see and hear each other in real-time using a camera and standard dial-up internet connection.
The software allows physiotherapists to guide their patients to administer their own physical assessments and treatment.
Dr Trevor Russell, the software creator and UQ physiotherapy lecturer, said his telemedicine rehabilitation package was for people in country towns or isolated areas who would normally be without physiotherapy.
“All they need is a little web camera, which costs about $100 to add to their system then they can access the service,” Dr Russell said.
The system was tested on 65 knee replacement patients at QEII Hospital with half of the group treated in person, and the other half via the computer.
Their knees were measured for strength, size and flexibility and then monitored during six weeks of physiotherapy.
The results showed the telemedicine patients had less pain and more mobility particularly in everyday movements such as climbing stairs.
“They reported feeling more in control of their rehabilitation and had higher compliance with a home exercise program.”
He believed his telemedicine system was the first of its kind in physiotherapy.
And the same technology could be applied to speech pathology, oncology, back-to-work therapy, diabetics and stroke, cancer and eye patients.
“Eventually patients who generally now spend a long time in extended care facilities, can go home earlier so it costs the government less to house them in hospitals.”
The telemedicine system will be tested on stroke and brain disorder patients before it is pitched to Queensland Health.
Asked if the system could be as good as in-person care, Dr Russell said the physiotherapist was still in visual and audio contact but it was via the computer rather than face-to-face.
“At the end of the day, it’s allowing us to treat people who otherwise would have no assistance with rehabilitation. So it’s that something rather than nothing scenario.”
For more information contact Dr Russell (telephone: 07 3346 9633, email: [email protected]) or Miguel Holland at UQ Communications (telephone: 3365 2619, email: [email protected])