Yale New Haven Hospital first in New England to offer virtual rehab program


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Yale New Haven Hospital Center for Musculoskeletal Care is the first in the New England area to offer an in-home virtual exercise rehabilitation program to patients.

Meet VERA, the avatar.

“Okay your turn,” said the figure on the screen.

VERA guides Pete Riccio through moves, tailor made for him after knee replacement surgery.

“I said bring it on because they basically said that we are going to try this out and we think it’s going to lead to quicker recovery and I’m a very active person so the quicker the better,” said Pete.

The in-home virtual exercise rehabilitation assistant program does what any physical therapist would say and do.

“Start with your feet shoulder length apart,” said VERA.

Saving Pete a trip to the rehab center.

“It’s probably easier than your TV remote to operate,” said John Tarutis, who heads up Physical Medicine and Rehab Services at the YNHH Center for Musculoskeletal Care.

He adds, “Our therapists adjust the exercise program through the whole course of treatment from pre-rehab to post.”

Patients start working with VERA pre-surgery, to build up strength.

“The stronger the patient that comes in, the better the patient is coming out too,” said Orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Gibson.

The steps continue in their hospital room post-surgery before going home with their customized exercises.

“This allows the patients,” said Dr. Gibson. “To control when they get therapy. How much therapy they do and it really is important for the patient’s psyche in terms of their outcome.”

Their sessions are recorded and monitored closely by therapists, who do it in real time or by assessing the data, keeping patients accountable and on track.

“I think we can look to our own individual experiences or those of our loved ones to know that we don’t always follow the physical therapy plan at home when we are left on our own. We need to be open to innovative ways of delivering higher quality care at lower costs,” said Dr. Mary O’Connor, Director of the Center for Musculoskeletal Care.

“That week ahead of surgery was wonderful because you got a very good idea of what was coming forward and how you are supposed to handle it,” said Pete.

VERA is currently a pilot program.

But Dr. O’Connor says it will likely become permanent.

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