Telerehabilitation care involves the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies when patients and providers are separated by geographic distances. Telerehabilitation technologies may include video teleconferencing to link a speech pathologist located at one of the Polytrauma System of Care locations with a Veteran patient at the local VA community-based outpatient clinic, or using home telehealth technologies to connect with Veterans at home to monitor their functional status and equipment needs. The advantages of doing this are: (1) it expedites access to care, (2) it improves clinical communication and transitions between locations of care, and (3) it eliminates unnecessary travel for Veterans and their families.
Early experience with telerehabilitation has shown that it can provide continuity and coordination of care across a continuum to help patients in their transition back to their local communities. Before leaving Department of Defense medical facilities or the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers, Veterans and their families have the opportunity to meet clinicians at the next location of care via video teleconferencing. This builds confidence in the continuum of services and promotes ongoing relationships with treatment teams across locations of care.
Telerehabilitation reduces the need for Veterans and their families to travel to receive specialized rehabilitation care. Over the past 5 years, telereahabilitation services have increased exponentially, with over 20 times more Veterans with polytrauma and TBI receiving rehabilitation care using video teleconferencing in 2013 than in 2008.
Increasingly, video teleconferencing is available between medical facilities and Veterans’ homes. By connecting with Veterans in their homes, clinicians are able to observe how Veterans participate in activities of daily living, what assistive devices may be indicated, and how the home environment may be modified to facilitate greater independence. Home video teleconferencing is useful option for providing rehabilitation care for Veterans who have a difficulties traveling outside their homes.