By Clementine Nyirangaruye
Digital Rehabilitation (DR) is the use of digital technologies (by rehabilitation professionals or self-driven service users) as part of the rehabilitation process in its different phases (assessment, goal setting, intervention, reassessment, secondary prevention).
Digital Rehabilitation aims to optimize functioning and reduce disability of individuals in interaction with their environment.
Therefore, Digital Rehabilitation has a strong link with the empowerment of individuals and communities.
In low and middle income countries including Rwanda there have been issues based on less accessibility to rehabilitation services because of a very few number of rehabilitation professionals in our health systems. At the level of health centers we do not have rehabilitation professionals.
‘’We are trying to solve less accessibility to rehabilitation services in our health system. First of all we have very few rehabilitation professionals and they are concentrated at higher level in referral Hospitals but when we go to lower level at health centers, we do not find any rehabilitation professional. It means that people are not accessing rehabilitation services at a lower level where we can call at primary level.” Said Prof David Tumusiime, PhD, Deputy Director of the Regional Center of Excellence in Biomedical Engineering and e-Health (CEBE).
‘’By using Digital Rehabilitation, We can reach at the lowest level even at the individual level and that is what we are trying to solve by improving accessibility and even affordability.” Prof David Tumusiime added.
Bigirimana Jean Damascene Ngamba, Community Manager of JAMK says that they want people to start using Digital technologies and connect directly to rehabilitation professionals to have access to rehabilitation services.
“Promoting Digital Rehabilitation actually means the use of digital technologies in rehabilitation by a patient of a rehabilitation professional because normally in rehabilitation, there is a process of assessment, treatment and reassessment and all can be done virtually. We want to make this process digital and the country has already scaled the internet across the country so we want people to start using Digital Technologies and connect directly to rehabilitation professionals for advice and orientation.
In that case, Digital Rehabilitation will help solving less accessibility to rehabilitation services” He said Byiringiro Jean Baptiste, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) in the Ministry of Health, affirms that Digital rehabilitation will solve the issue of less accessibility to rehabilitation services not only in Rwanda but also in East African countries and beyond.
“Digital rehabilitation is needed to solve the issue of less accessibility to rehabilitation services in Rwanda and East African Countries where rehabilitation professionals will be in touch with those who need rehabilitation services virtually. It is recommended to all Rwandans and foreigners to use technology in order to have access to rehabilitation services. For those who have no smartphones yet, they will be accessing those services by with Community Health Workers (Abajyanama b’ubuzima) after being trained.” Byiringiro Said.
This program is being studies by the Regional Center of Excellence in Biomedical Engineering and E-health (CEBE) of the University of Rwanda in collaboration with JAMK University of Applied Sciences of central Finland.