Technology can reduce disability and speed up discharge, but only if it is designed in a collaborative space.

We have called this collaborative socio-technical design space the HabITec Lab.

It is where consumers, practitioners, technology and industrial designers, funders/planners and family can work together to raise awareness of and evaluate existing technologies, promote innovation and create bespoke technological solutions that will enhance rehabilitation outcomes, improve independence and participation, reduce discharge delays and prevent readmissions. It is both a physical and a virtual space where all involved can collaborate to develop tailored technical solutions using existing technologies. It is a space where end-users of technology (consumers and clinicians) can become aware of the many technologies that could enhance quality of life or improve rehabilitation outcomes. Solutions will focus on self-management (or zero-effort technology), independence and participation, sustainability of technical solutions in the community context and avoidance of the need for readmission.  

HabITec will offer an opportunity for consumers and clinicians to trial new technology, receive mentoring or contribute to cutting-edge development initiatives. They will be able to bring specific problems to the Lab for collaborative design of a solution. Through our partnerships with Microsoft Australia, developers and designers, technology precincts such as ADaPT 2.0, researchers, and interdisciplinary student hubs (OT, ICT, industrial design, creative design and engineering), consumers and clinicians will have access to the latest technology in assistive devices, virtual or augmented reality, 3D printing, App and software design, virtual assistants and controlled homes, artificial intelligence, sensors and robotics. Design teams will use repetitive co-design practice to ensure fit-for-purpose solutions and acceptability of the technology solutions. Funders and planners will be able to access evidence about the role of technology in rehabilitation to support their decision-making. HabITec can also provide an online space where technological solutions can be shared with the broader population.

Why the contribution is important

Technology is currently evolving so fast that new solutions are available every day on the commercial marketplace. For consumers, many technologies are now affordable and easy to use, with excellent accessibility enhancements such as voice activation and facial recognition. Many of these solutions could contribute to efficient patient flow, reduced clinician workload, better consumer outcomes and improved quality of life in the long-term. Clinicians currently working in Metro South have great ideas about how technology could improve their practice, but there are many obstacles standing in the way of uptake. Both consumers and clinicians are often unaware of what is available and have no opportunity to trial and test technologies in a safe space. There is no support to develop fit-for-purpose and acceptable packages of technologies. Further, funding agencies are reluctant to purchase technology given the currently high abandonment rate for assistive devices and the lack of supportive evidence. Thus, there is a massive gap between new innovations and what patients can actually access.

Our preliminary focus groups with clinicians currently working at PAH showed that they are not keeping abreast of the fast evolving technological advancements. They were unclear about how technology could make a difference to their patients' rehabilitation, independence at home and participation in the community. They requested easy and supported access to technologies that could be tested with their patients. Many clinicians expressed frustration that they were not able to capitalise on the technological advances that are revolutionising many other industries. The HabITec Lab has been designed to address these challenges.

If we began using technology effectively within MSHHS rehabilitation, we could facilitate earlier discharge and better support in the community for our patients. We could improve the way we target our rehabilitation interventions through better assessment, diagnosis and monitoring of improvements. Technology could enhance the way we deliver skill re-training and ensure transfer of skills to the community through innovative simulations and augmented reality. We could prescribe assistance devices and equipment packages that better meets the needs of people with disabilities and allow them to remain in their own homes for longer. We could simplify the delivery of treatment and rehabilitation through robotics and artificial intelligence that could reduce the demand on the workforce. We could prepare the home and community for transition from rehabilitation and ensure successful discharges. Through workplace modifications and remote sensing, we could support early return to work. Finally, connected homes and virtual assistants could reduce the need for carers and support services, promoting safe and sustainable independent living.

Technology is rapidly changing our world and has the potential to alter the way we think about disability, but this will only be achieved if practitioners prescribe technology and patients accept it. As more advanced technology becomes available, impairments and environments that previously created disability can be overcome. For people with serious injuries or illnesses, technology represents an exciting opportunity to improve rehabilitation and gain independence in the community.

However, the translation of technological innovations into rehabilitation and disability practice is limited. The barriers to technology use among people with disability have been well documented and the rate of device abandonment is high. Practitioners report being interested in the role of technology to facilitate rehabilitation and recovery, but actual application remains low. The best way to facilitate the uptake of new technologies in rehabilitation remains unknown, but a collaborative design space will address many of these barriers.

by soo on May 27, 2019 at 10:49AM

Current Rating

Average score : 4.9
Based on : 21 votes


  • Posted by katemartin2 May 28, 2019 at 10:03

    This is a great, innovative initiative and a relatively simple way to utilise something already in the works to enhance health outcomes and a more seamless discharge
  • Posted by kajewskh May 29, 2019 at 12:43

    Great idea - will also require staff to be well educated regarding integration of technology and MSHHS needs to make it so that the use of technology by their clinicians as an advantage not as time consuming, or in breach of their responsibilities as a clinician (ie not recommending an app for fear that this recommendation may be detrimental to QH).
  • Posted by Emilya May 31, 2019 at 08:12

    Great idea
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