SINGAPORE: The government said the use of technology not only accelerates the rehabilitation process of patients, but also helps ease manpower shortages in healthcare.
The latest in "rehab innovations" for those with disabilities are on display at the inaugural Rehab Tech Asia exhibition in Singapore.
The showcase includes a robot arm which allows users who are paralysed in their upper bodies to do daily functions, such as drinking a glass of water.
Laurie Piquet, director of rehabilitation development at KINOVA, said: "When we demonstrate this to users, often the first comments that we have are, 'that's the first time I'm drinking a glass of water by myself'."
The innovation from Canada is compatible with any powered wheelchair and can be controlled by a joystick or through neck movements.
A special wheelchair also improves mobility by making it easier for users to climb stairs and cross pavements.
Other than technology for patients to use, there are also devices for caregivers.
"The Body Up", distributed by Lifeline, is a transfer assist device for bed-ridden patients. The contraption can be used to lift a patient who weighs less than 120kg.
With a growing demand for special needs care, those in the field of rehabilitation said such technology can alleviate problems of manpower shortage.
Dr Kong Keng He, senior consultant at department of rehabilitation medicine at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said: "It is still very hospital-centric. The patient goes to the hospital to get treatment. I think it will be better off to make it more patient-centric. Deploy this treatment, whether it is rehabilitation, back to the community. And it's always possible for community centres, day rehabilitation centres to acquire these equipment and to have patients to receive their therapy there."
Minister of State for Health Dr Amy Khor agreed, saying the high cost of some technology may be offset by productivity gains in the long run.
She said: "Where it is viable and applicable, I think we should adopt them because it's helpful in terms of improving, accelerating the rehabilitation experience as well as in terms of better use of manpower, improving productivity, and this is something we need to look at. Where it is still costly, I think technology will develop and we will have to continue to monitor this."
With the recent enhancements made to the Senior's Mobility and Enabling Fund, Dr Khor said the subsides should encourage the elderly to go for rehabilitation services within the community.
On how the fund will be disbursed to help home care patients, especially those who are not in touch with intermediate- and long-term care providers, Dr Khor said the Agency for Integrated Care will work with the operators to help spread awareness of the fund. The agency will also work with the grassroots organisations and Community Development Councils to publicise the fund among needy residents.