North Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group has begun to offer ‘virtual rehab’ kits to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
In a move claimed to be the first of its kind in the UK it has made the kits – consisting of a virtual reality headset, wearable sensor and mobile data hotspot – available from GP practices.
It enables patients to carry out pulmonary rehabilitation exercises led by a digital instructor, using an immersive app.
The CCG said that the service is based on rehabilitation classes delivered by physiotherapists in hospitals, and that it will provide an additional 501 pulmonary rehabilitation places per year. Patients choosing the option will obtain faster access to rehabilitation, beginning the treatment within a week of referral.
The solution has been developed by Concept Health Technologies and North Lincolnshire CCG said this is the first time it has been implemented at scale.
The move follows a pilot scheme that showed patient retention rates improved by up to 80% and that it reduced the need for hospital visits.
Better quality of life
Dr Satpal Shekhawat, medical director at NHS North Lincolnshire CCG said: “I am confident that this will significantly improve quality of life for our COPD patients.
“Many parts of North Lincolnshire are rural and some are not well served by public transport, so this programme will really help those who might otherwise struggle to attend a rehabilitation appointment in person.
“This is an additional service which will add significant capacity to deliver pulmonary rehabilitation for North Lincolnshire residents. We anticipate this will reduce waiting times and ultimately reduce the number of hospital admissions for people living with COPD.”
Virtual rehabilitation has been used for treating various injuries and conditions, notably in North America, but it is understood this is the first time it has been offered to patients through the NHS.
Image from NHS North Lincolnshire CCG