At a recent HRI research seminar, Dr Rawstorn spoke on his work with remote-monitored home exercise programs using telehealth interventions and wearable technology. His goal is to develop at-home exercise programs that produce the same outcomes as in-clinic programs, and embed them into regional hospital practice.
Supervised exercise programs help people recover from heart attacks and live with chronic diseases such as angina, high blood pressure and diabetes. However, these exercise programs are traditionally delivered in hospital clinics. As Dr Rawstorn says:
There are not as many programs available in as many different places as are really needed, so there are a lot of barriers like travel distance that stop people coming in.
Overcoming the barrier of distance
Dr Rawstorn and his team have developed a smart phone app to connect patients with exercise clinicians, so patients exercising at home share the feeling of being in a face-to-face clinic with expert support and monitoring.
The app incorporates real-time feedback and coaching based on live physiological data such as heart and breathing rates, and alerts the clinicians if the data show any abnormalities. This allows the clinicians to immediately help patients who are at risk of heart complications by pushing themselves too hard.
How does remote intervention compare to traditional in-clinic interventions?
In a study of cardiac rehabilitation patients that used their app and wearable technology, the research team have found very similar health and rehabilitation benefits for the in-clinic and remote programs.
They found that patients liked having a high-quality alternative to in-clinic rehabilitation and valued the real-time monitoring and coaching built into the app. Nor was technology a barrier – patients young and old quickly learned how to use the app, and very few required tech support after the first few exercise sessions.
What happens next?
The team now plan to broaden their trial to regional hospitals across Victoria to learn how to embed this remote technology into regional health practice. One part of this involves developing sound ways to remotely measure patients’ fitness levels at the start of the program. As Dr Rawstorn says:
The exercise program is run over the internet so theoretically it can reach 97-98% of the population, but we still need people to go into a hospital for their initial exercise tests. There’s no point in us saying ‘This is a great option if you can’t go to a hospital program, but I need you to go to hospital for an exercise test first!’
We look forward to reporting further on this initiative with Bendigo Health and regional hospitals.
Do you want to find out more?
If you would like to watch Dr Rawstorn’s seminar in full please follow the link below and use the password _E2nMPnX!JMZ
Dr Jonathan Rawstorn is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN). His telerehabilitation research focuses on program design, development, evaluation, and translation into clinical practice. His twitter handle is @jrawstorn