The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the top rehabilitation care centers in the nation. The project will develop effective tele-rehabilitation applications using advanced networking technologies. A test-bed network will be developed in the metro-Atlanta area to link rehabilitation professionals with patients who have sustained catastrophic spinal cord and brain injuries, their family members, and caregivers. The test-bed will emulate capabilities of the Next Generation Internet, including high-bandwidth videoconferencing, remote monitoring, environmental control, and high-speed delivery of interactive, multimedia instruction.
The network will be used to develop, deliver, and evaluate tele-rehabilitation applications. The applications will be designed to support community re-entry after catastrophic injury; prevent or reduce the severity of secondary complications often associated with catastrophic injury; and deliver health and wellness support and advocacy assistance to people with disabilities living in the community.
Desktop personal computers with videoconferencing capability in patients' homes will allow virtual visits and provide more opportunities for patient/doctor interaction. Once in place, patients will achieve greater success in community reintegration (e.g., return to work); experience fewer secondary complications; demonstrate greater independence; incur lower overall health care and support costs; and report higher satisfaction with their health-related quality of life.
The Shepherd Clinic is in an ideal position to explore emerging technologies that may have telemedicine and tele-rehabilitation applications. It will be supported by the Georgia Institute of Technology, which is a development site for the Next Generation Internet and Internet 2, and by several key corporate partners that have access to the latest network technologies. The project is also significant because of the persons served. Each year, there are an estimated 60,000 new spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries in the United States. Many of these patients will need extensive follow-up care, beyond treatment for their primary condition. This project is a model for providing rehabilitation patients with access to specialized services and resources to prevent and treat the conditions that often develop following injury.
This collaborative effort will be undertaken by researchers and practitioners from the Shepherd Center, the Biomedical Interactive Technology Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the School of Public Health at Emory University, MindSpring Enterprises, Inc., CyberCare, Inc. and Siemens Corporation.