Background: Since 2008 investigators from the University of Kentucky have worked with multiple stakeholder groups to establish the Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network (KARRN). KARRN was established to investigate and develop strategies to reduce disability and improve quality of life for individuals with neurological impairments (spinal cord injury (SCI), brain injury (BI), stroke, etc.) living in underserved and impoverished rural Appalachian counties.
Based on KARRN research, several key finding have been identified:
- Need for increased education for healthcare providers to care for complex patients with SCI, BI or Stroke
- Need for care transitions to support community reintegrating of individuals with acquired disabilities
- Need for improved mediation tracking to improved consumer understanding of their complex medication regiments
- Need for improved access to essential assistive technology and medical equipment
- Need to develop technology that can work in rural underserved environments
- Need for advocacy for individuals with neurological conditions especially in underserved rural communities
Based on the finding of our research, separate interventions were developed and tested to improve the long-term health and health care of individuals with stroke, SCI, and BI in rural Appalachian communities
- Demonstrated increased healthcare provider and consumer knowledge about the special healthcare needs of individuals with SCI, BI, and stroke through the development of educational conferences and videos
- Demonstrated improved health outcomes for individuals with stroke through improved care coordination and access to essential healthcare and community resources through our KY Care Coordination for Community Transitions (KC3T) program.
- Demonstrated improved medication knowledge by individuals with SCI through an innovative web-based medication tracking program.
- Demonstrated improved quality of life through access to refurbished and reutilized durable medical equipment for those who could not afford it in our rural impoverished communities.
- Demonstrated the ability to advocate for change through the development of the KY Congress on SCI.
The KARRN is currently developing research capabilities that will expand our mission that will allow the results of previous work to be expanded for application to the Commonwealth and beyond for the promotion of health and healthcare for individuals with neurological conditions. KARRN will expand and develop new research and test collaborative models to meet the specific needs of individuals with SCI, TBI, stroke, etc., especially those living in rural underserved communities. New research priorities will incorporate innovative technology to develop new assistive technology and medical equipment that is durable and inexpensive and can function in underserved rural communities. In addition, new research priorities will focus on testing new models for distance education and telehealth as well as expansion the medication tracking program to improve communication between patient and provider to overcome inappropriate use of prescription medications. This research will meet a broad spectrum of populations, civilian and military, with neurological conditions including health promotion, advocacy, sports and exercise in the disabled populations in order to improve quality of life and community participation.
Patrick Kitzman, PhD., MSPT Director
Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network
University of Kentucky