What is Rehabilitation?

Many people associate the word “rehabilitation” with vocational services or substance abuse recovery. However, our coalition focuses on medical rehabilitation, a branch of medicine that aims to improve, restore and maintain functional ability and quality of life of those with physical impairments or disabilities.  The National Association of Insurance Commissioners defines rehabilitation as “health care services that help a person keep, get back or improve skills and functioning for daily living that have been lost or impaired because a person was sick, hurt or disabled.”

Rehabilitation Services

Rehabilitation services are provided by teams of highly trained and experienced rehabilitation professionals, including rehabilitation physicians, rehabilitation nurses, physical therapists, speech hearing and language pathologists, occupational therapists, recreational, and cognitive therapists.

Rehabilitation services are provided in a number of settings and at various levels of intensity. For example, an adult recovering from a stroke or brain injury may require intensive inpatient rehabilitation hospital services, followed by regular outpatient rehabilitation therapy.  A child diagnosed with multiple sclerosis may require ongoing speech, physical and occupational therapy. An individual who suffers from a heart condition may need intensive cardiac rehabilitation, which can not only help a person recover from an acute event but can prevent future problems and hospital stays.

Rehabilitative services include, but are not limited to, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, cognitive and behavioral therapy, recreational therapy and music therapy. Rehabilitation services can positively impact the health status and functional ability of many individuals with medical conditions, including those living with brain injury, heart conditions, multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal cord injuries, speech and hearing conditions, limb loss, and cerebral palsy.

Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities

Following acute-hospital care, many individuals with severe injuries or disabilities will be admitted to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital or unit.  In an inpatient rehab setting, individuals receive intensive, coordinated care by a team of health care professionals who specialize in the medical, physiological, and psychosocial aspects of rehabilitative health care.  Rehabilitation physicians and rehabilitation nurses must be available on a 24-hour basis and a physician must see the patient at least every two or three days.  Inpatient rehabilitation facilities provide individuals with intensive, multidisciplinary therapy as well as extensive medical management and the facilities have a medical director of rehabilitation with specified training/experience.

For most, the goal of inpatient rehabilitation is to help an individual regain his/her maximum level of independent function and return to independent, community living.

Outpatient Rehabilitation Clinics

Many individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions depend on outpatient rehabilitation therapy to regain and maintain their maximum level of function and independence.  Outpatient therapy clinics provide services to patients living at home and in the community. The outpatient rehabilitation team develops individual plans to restore, improve and maintatin cognitive and physical function, as well as to maximize safety, prevent repeat and secondary conditions, and assist with self‐care independence. Such services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, behavioral therapy, and cognitive therapy. Outpatient therapy services are provided at various levels of intensity, depending upon the individual need.

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