Telerehabilitation (TR), which is the use of digital technologies to provide rehabilitation services from a remote location, a solution for the increasing demand being placed on the healthcare sector, constitutes a small part of the literature on telemedicine, with very few studies being reported in resource constrained countries.
The literature indicates that while telemedicine offers great opportunities to healthcare in general and for rehabilitation services, it could be particularly beneficial for resource constrained countries, where access to basic healthcare is compromised by lack of services and skilled professional care, by providing access to medical services in any part of the country or the world.
With an increase in the various disorders such as cerebro-vascular accidents, traumatic brain injury, developmental delays in paediatrics, etc., that require rehabilitation interventions like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology and the like in resource constrained countries, and considering their dearth, a new method such as TR needs to be considered for their intervention.
Despite increased reporting about TR research, many clinicians are still not using it, which may be due to the lack of knowledge, technical skills, understanding or its accessibility. Clinicians who have used video-conferencing, Skype, email and telephony for work have been driven by local need and the availability of infrastructure. TR has considerable potential in resource constrained countries to address the treatment gaps, but while this is theoretically feasible, attempts to implement it in public sector facilities have not been very successful.
In 2014, the Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre launched a round-the-clock telephone service that connects patients to nurses and doctors throughout the region. The Department of Health- Abu Dhabi currently has regulations setting minimum standards for telemedicine.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has also taken an important step towards modernising the Emirate’s healthcare industry with the passing of Administrative Resolution No. 30 of 2017 concerning the Regulation of Telehealth Care Services (the “Telehealth Regulations”), which sets out minimum standards and requirements for the provision of telehealth services across Dubai. Consideration has to be given for health insurers and health maintenance organisations to cover the cost of healthcare services provided through telerehabilitation on the same basis as those provided through in-person visits, which can further supplement the implementation of TR.