In Vietnam, more than 64% of the population live in rural areas, significantly limiting access to appropriate rehabilitation care. This is particularly true for people with disabilities who have difficulty traveling long distances. Country estimates report fewer than one physical therapist per 10,000 people, and only 2% of Vietnamese children receive rehabilitation care when needed.
By contrast, 80% of the population uses a smartphone and 4G coverage is at 95%. Even families with very low incomes typically have access to a mobile device. With its background in innovative humanitarian response and rehabilitation expertise, HI has designed the OpenTeleRehab software as an adaptive solution to ensure both access and quality care for rehabilitation service users facing these obstacles.
Custom care, accessible to all
“The application will provide remote rehabilitation services, increasing access to care in contexts where the rehabilitation workforce is limited,” says Martin Jacobs, HI rehabilitation technical advisor and OpenTeleRehab project manager. “Patients are taught in-service by their therapist how to use the patient mobile application, then, once they are home they can access their custom treatment plan by smartphone. The treatment plan can include exercises, information and educational material and questionnaires. Therapists can organize regular follow-up audio or video calls and track patient progress and adherence to the plan.”
OpenTeleRehab aims to increase access to rehabilitation services by strengthening hospital discharge, transition of care and community-based follow-up. Its goal is to prevent repeat hospital stays for people with long-term needs, to lower patient costs, to optimize functioning and reduce obstacles for individuals with disabilities in central Vietnam. Its offline features ensure that it can easily be used in contexts with limited internet access, and the child-friendly version of the patient mobile application increases engagement among young users.
Implementation and next steps
The initial OpenTeleRehab launch will be piloted in two provinces of Vietnam, serving 550 direct beneficiaries and their families. Tablets will be distributed to families with the lowest resources if they are unable to access a mobile device. After its initial release, HI plans to further develop its services and eventually expand its use.
“The next steps will be to increase the number of exercises in the library, and to translate it to different languages,” Martin Says. “We will then be able to deploy the software in different countries and different contexts.”