Spinal cord patients can rehabilitate online

December 05, 1999

RICHLAND, Wash. - A new computer program now being tested could help reduce some of the difficulties associated with a spinal cord injury by providing at-home rehabilitation assistance.

The Rehabilitation Learning Center is a new online learning environment being established as a resource for spinal cord injury patients. It was the idea of Dr. Anthony Margherita at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., who learned of a computer tool called Pachelbel™. This Web-based education tool was developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the National Security Agency.

The Rehabilitation Learning Center uses the Pachelbel architecture to provide training and reference materials to patients working from a personal computer. Content ranges from types of spinal cord injuries to lifestyle changes to video instruction on correctly moving from a wheelchair to a bed.

"Patients are empowered when they have information at their fingertips," said Dr. Margherita, an associate professor of rehabilitation medicine. "This would allow patients to better participate in their rehabilitation program."

Dr. Margherita began testing the program this fall with spinal cord patients who have completed rehabilitation and who can provide feedback. It is expected to be tested on new rehabilitation patients in early 2000.

"Pachelbel is a powerful program that provides flexibility where it hasn't been offered before," said Doug Rice, project manager for Pacific Northwest. "The author, who might be the patient's doctor, can access or modify instructional material, track a patient's progress or tailor information for individual patients."

For the Rehabilitation Learning Center, Pacific Northwest researchers enhanced Pachelbel's capabilities to manage several courses simultaneously and to incorporate video and animation elements. Dr. Margherita provided content for the program.

The project has been funded through a grant provided to the medical school by the Centers for Disease Control for studying the impact of environmental barriers to people with functional limitations or disabilities. The work began in 1998.

Pacific Northwest and Dr. Margherita are actively seeking new partners or participants as they further develop the Rehabilitation Learning Center and Pachelbel architecture.

Pachelbel has been used as an educational supplement and for enhancing Web site delivery and management. It was created in the mid-1990s for NSA's Parentage/Acquaintance software program and since has been used by universities and the U.S. Army. In addition, Pacific Northwest uses Pachelbel for training employees in computer security, for maintaining a variety of Web content, and as an external marketing tool. Business inquiries on Pachelbel or other PNNL technologies should be directed to 1-888-375-PNNL or e-mail: inquiry@pnl.gov.
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For more information on the Rehabilitation Learning Center, go tohttp://www.neuro.wustl.edu/rlc/.

Pacific Northwest is one of DOE's nine multiprogram national laboratories and conducts research in the fields of environment, energy, health sciences and national security. Battelle, based in Columbus, Ohio, has operated Pacific Northwest for DOE since 1965.

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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