The COVID-19 Rehabilitation Pandemic

Sarah De Biase; Laura Cook; Dawn A. Skelton; Miles Witham; Ruth ten Hove


Age Ageing. 2020;49(5):696-700. 

In This Article

The Need for Further Research

Research is essential if effective, efficient rehabilitation responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are to be developed. Although models of care will be developed and implemented at speed, evaluation must accompany implementation, with rapid dissemination of results. Key areas for research will need to include ascertainment of the number of people in need of rehabilitation, severity and type of deficits, the long-term impact of the pandemic and of unmet rehabilitation need and evaluation of novel modes of delivery, including the use of online and digital resources. Older people have lower levels of digital literacy and are less likely to have access to the internet; they may be living with sensory loss and/or cognitive impairment and not all will understand English. It is important that novel solutions to rehabilitation delivery do not create new groups of disadvantaged or excluded older people, and it is equally important that new services accurately identify those in need of rehabilitation and match service delivery to their needs.

Research must take account the complex, multiprofessional and multiagency nature of high-quality rehabilitation. It will be imperative to draw on the expertise of alliances such as the UK Rehabilitation Alliance (25 patient charities and professional organisations) to ensure that research questions related to rehabilitation are relevant to the population,[20] and a broad range of research methods, from realist evaluation to large randomised controlled trials and rigorously-evaluated quality improvement, will be needed to develop the evidence base. Research funding has been made available across the world to develop a greater understanding of the effects of COVID-19, and it is incumbent on all clinicians involved in rehabilitation to participate in, and advocate for rehabilitation research. COVID-19 has demonstrated the pace and scale with which complex trials and other research studies can be set up and delivered, and there is a real opportunity here to make sure that through research, we build better rehabilitation services both for older people with COVID-19 and those whose need now is just as great as it was before the pandemic.