Review How Can Intelligent Robots And Smart Mechatronic Modules Facilitate Remote Assessment Assistance And Rehabilitation For Isolated Adults With Neuro-Musculoskeletal Conditions
At the time this article was written, there are over 21 million cases of patients with a confirmed link to COVID-19 and about 800,000 deaths reported. With a lack of any vaccine or proven antiviral treatment for the novel coronavirus, actions in terms of prevention and containment of the virus transmission rely mostly on social distancing among susceptible and high-risk populations. Aside from the direct challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, there are serious and growing secondary consequences caused by the physical distancing and isolation guidelines, among vulnerable populations. Moreover, the healthcare system's resources and capacity have been focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, causing less urgent care, such as physical neurorehabilitation and assessment, to be paused, canceled, or delayed. Overall, this has left elderly adults, in particular those with neuromusculoskeletal (NMSK) conditions, without the required service support. However, in many cases, such as stroke, the available time window of recovery through rehabilitation is limited since neural plasticity decays quickly with time. Given that future waves of the outbreak are expected in the coming months worldwide, it is important to discuss the possibility of using available technologies to address this issue, as societies have a duty to protect the most vulnerable populations. In this perspective review article, we argue that intelligent robotics and smart wearables can help with remote delivery of assessment, assistance, and rehabilitation services while physical distancing and isolation measures are in place to curtail the spread of the virus. By supporting patients and medical professionals during this pandemic, robots, and smart digital mechatronic systems can reduce the non-COVID-19 burden on healthcare systems. Digital health and cloud telehealth solutions that can complement remote delivery of assessment and physical rehabilitation services will be the subject of discussion in this article due to their potential in enabling more effective and safer NMSDK rehabilitation, assistance, and assessment service delivery. This article will hopefully lead to an interdisciplinary dialog between the medical and engineering sectors, stakeholders, and policymakers for better delivery of care for those with NMSK conditions during a global health crisis including future waves of COVID-19 and future pandemics.