This month we profile PhD candidate Caitlin Hamilton. Caitlin is an occupational therapist who is currently completing her PhD on the topic of technology use in rehabilitation to improve physical function. We asked Caitlin a little bit about herself and her research.
Please tell us a little about yourself
Since graduating in 2008 as an occupational therapist, I have worked predominantly in aged-care and neurological rehabilitation roles in hospital and community settings, and across public and private health sectors in Australia and the UK. Over the years I have supported adults with a range of health conditions such as stroke and traumatic brain injury to participate in their everyday activities. I am motivated to improve rehabilitation services through the implementation of evidence in practice, and currently completing my PhD on the topic of technology use in rehabilitation to improve physical function.
What is your research on?
Evidence for the amount of physical rehabilitation favours higher doses for optimising functional outcomes for people, and preventing or reducing secondary conditions such as obesity and hypertension. My PhD research is on the use of technologies that provide feedback about task performance or dose of practice, as a strategy to increase the amount of physical rehabilitation. Examples of feedback-based technologies are virtual reality systems, handheld device apps and wearable devices. Given the growing evidence of effectiveness to support the use of feedback-based technologies in physical rehabilitation, the aim of my research is to understand patient and therapist experiences of using these technologies, in order to inform how they can best be used in practice.
What are the real world consequences of your research?
The provision of rehabilitation programmes that provide a high amount of exercise is a challenge for health systems, due to the increasing need for rehabilitation as a result of population ageing and the increased prevalence of chronic conditions. The real world consequences of this research is that the use of feedback-based technologies has the potential to provide rehabilitation programmes that promote a high amount of exercise in a cost-effective way. Knowledge gained from understanding the experiences of patients and therapists will help inform rehabilitation services in implementing technologies and guide technology developers in the design of future technologies.
What does digital health mean to you?
Digital health means that we can provide opportunities for patients to engage in high amounts of exercise during physical rehabilitation in an affordable way. Many feedback-based technologies including virtual reality systems are now relatively affordable, and enable remote access which reduce the need for clinicians to conduct home visits. As the demand for rehabilitation increases, digital health will become even more important in order to provide rehabilitation services within the context of limited health resources.
A very big thank you to Caitlin for taking the time to be our June feature!