PATIENTS are able to take part in physiotherapy in their own homes as part of a new video-conferencing trial.
The trial, which is the first of its kind in Scotland, sees small groups of patients matched up with a physiotherapist so they can support one another as they practice exercises at home.
It has developed from a scheme which started a year ago, in which exercise and education classes held at Midlothian Community Hospital were beamed live to another class at Roodlands Hospital in Haddington, enabling one teacher to lead groups in two locations at the same time.
Amanda Stears, service lead for East and Midlothian pulmonary rehabilitation, is leading the trial, which is aimed at patients with the lung condition Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD.
Patients taking part are equipped with a specially-designed phone with a screen, Ms Stears explained: “They can dial into a virtual room a bit like a chat room and they see me in the middle of their screen and the other four people in the group, all at once.
“It’s for patients more at the severe end of the spectrum who can’t get out to classes.
“Part of it is the social interaction and meeting people with the same condition. With COPD you can become very debilitated and very isolated.
“Meeting people who understand what they going through is important. We may be offering chat room capability, so if they’re up at two or three in the morning and feeling fed up and if another patient they know may be up, they can catch up with them.”
Their high-tech approach to their work saw Ms Stears’ team nominated for the Advancing Healthcare Awards last year. They have been shortlisted for the awards again this year.
So far the equipment they are using has been on free loan from the manufacturer Polycom, but when the health board proceeds with the scheme in the long term, it will buy its own. It is also being used for others, such as sleep therapy patients, to hold video calls with their doctors.
Among those trialling the new phones is Chrissie Wilkie, a former care assistant from Dalkeith, who has suffered from COPD for around five years.
The condition means that even normal exertion leaves Ms Wilkie, 64, extremely tired and breathless. She took part in some classes at Midlothian Community Hospital, but said the opportunity to exercise from home would be even better: “I did ten weeks of the class, but I think I missed two because the weather affects you – if it’s cold you can’t get out, if it’s too windy you can’t get out, but I did benefit from going to the classes.”
So far, she and four other patients have tried the video phones, linking up to see Ms Stears at the hospital, and each another at home.
She said: “It really is a great thing. I think it’s going to be tremendous for people who can’t get out of the house. You don’t feel on your own, you can see other people, and they’re doing the same as you – it’s amazing.”