Mind the knowledge gap: are your rehabilitation providers up to date?

Many accident victims are unable to benefit from rehabilitation innovation, not because tech solutions do not exist, but because their advisers are unaware of them.

One of the opening sessions of the ACRM annual conference explored that common deficiency in the context of community accessibility for people with impaired mobility or vision. A U.S. healthcare study found that 93% of patients wanted or expected advice on technology resources, but only 50% of clinicians had ever discussed a website or app of any type with a patient, and only 36% were aware of websites or apps specifically for accessibility.

In contrast, there is actually an awful lot of online innovation happening, including by some major brands. Uber has added app functionality including UberAssist for booking drivers with special training in helping passengers in and out of vehicles, and UberWAV for booking wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Its policies provide that all drivers must accept folding mobility aids and guide dogs. And its app is specifically compatible with screen-reading services for the visually impaired.

Tech giant Google has also entered this market, by expanding Google Maps to show wheelchair-accessible routes in several international pilot cities including London. The app can also now capture user ratings for venue accessibility, which are incentivised by Google giving reviewer rewards on products within its suite.

Away from the big players, smaller developers have created apps to locate accessible parking spaces, using start-up techniques such as volunteer ‘map-athons’ to log spaces in a particular city, and crowd-sourced real-time parking updates. Other apps have been created to report accessible parking abuses (in one U.S. state the app automatically notifies the police!) or to track accessibility outages such as lifts or escalators around an underground transport system.

The same deficiency hinders rehabilitation delivery in the UK compensation system, where a significant proportion of case managers or reporting experts lack familiarity with tech solutions. In some cases those providers have necessarily moved into the medico-legal environment in the second half of their careers, because one of the barriers to entry is having sufficient professional experience or standing in the first place. One of the unintended consequences is that their more junior peers may have greater aptitude for deploying tech solutions in modern rehabilitation.

The level of resources available to backfill the knowledge gap is currently fairly low. The best UK example that I know of is the mytherappy website developed by the NHS to help clinicians or patients to select the right apps to support their recovery.

In the short term the burden therefore falls on claims professionals to invest their own time in acquiring know-how about rehabilitation innovations, to purposely select suppliers who share and can support those goals, and to proactively manage their rehabilitation providers for better outcomes. The return on that investment is potentially a win-win scenario of maximising recovery and quality of life for accident victims, whilst at the same time protecting indemnity spend by compensators. To that end, Kennedys will continue tracking the latest developments and keeping our clients up to date.

Read other items in Catastrophic injury: market insights into rehabilitation technology