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New program aims to improve access to rehabilitation for rural and remote communities

Equipment used for rehabilitation care at the Glenrose Hospital. Feb. 16, 2024 (CTV News Edmonton) Equipment used for rehabilitation care at the Glenrose Hospital. Feb. 16, 2024 (CTV News Edmonton)
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Alberta Innovates is partnering with the Glenrose Hospital Foundation to expand access to rehabilitation care to people living in rural areas.

Around 20 per cent of Albertans live in rural and remote communities. Yearly, around 10,000 people need to travel to major cities to receive specialized rehabilitation care, according to Alberta Innovates.

Rehabilitative care helps patients regain mental, physical and cognitive abilities after an injury, disease, treatment or a surgery.

The Glenrose Hospital is the only rehabilitation hospital in western Canada, according to Mark Korthuis, the president and CEO of the Glenrose Hospital Foundation.

The effect remote solutions could have on rehabilitative health care could be "transformative," according to Marty Rehman.

Eight years ago, Rehman suffered a spinal cord injury which left him paralyzed from the neck down. He was told he would likely not regain use of his shoulders or arms again.

"After intensive treatment, I am now able to hug my family with one arm," said Rehman. "I was able to make the commute, many people aren't, this isn't uncommon.

"Over the course of my rehabilitation (I've met) individuals like me who are facing barriers to accessing rehabilitation care in their communities and the need for programs and solutions to support access in rural and remote Alberta is increasingly evident."

"As our population both grows and ages, the need for rehabilitative care will continue to increase … it's unlikely the budget for the care will grow at the same rate," added Laura Kilcrease, the CEO of Alberta Innovates.

"The only way we can … meet this rising challenge is through innovation."

Digital4Health is a $2-million program which aims to discover, test and implement new rehabilitation technologies over the next 24 months.

"Examples of this might include rehabilitation technology for patients that could be operated remotely, better data systems for sharing information, any technology that will make it easier for remote patients to get the care at the level they need," said Kilcrease.

"This is going to also help us no matter where you live in Alberta, to deliver better health care to you," added Nate Glubish, minister of technology and innovation. "This will reduce, or in some cases even remove the need to travel into a major center."

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