Johns Hopkins Shares Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Expertise Globally

Clinicians from Johns Hopkins’ Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department are widely sought for international consulting collaborations — most recently by a health system in Saudi Arabia.

Published in Restore - Restore Winter 2021

For at least five years, physiatrists, therapists and others in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department have been imparting worldwide their knowledge of how to build high class, effective rehabilitation programs, says Michael Friedman, faculty member in the department and director of strategic program development. Many of the projects took place in collaboration with representatives from Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Others arose from the participation of outside international organizations in virtual conferences, organized by the department, about critical care and rehabilitation as well as hospital immobility.

“Rehabilitation is not really well developed around the world, mostly because it hasn’t been integrated as a strategic priority within health systems,” Friedman says. “What we try to do is position rehabilitation as a value-based health care proposition that can reduce total cost of care.”

The department has done everything from providing consultations and advice to programs in need to offering full-scale, hands-on help to implement a new service. Take a new rehabilitation center in the works at the Saudi Arabia-based Jeddah Park Health, for example. The organization contacted Johns Hopkins in spring 2019 for assistance creating a free-standing, comprehensive rehabilitation facility that would include inpatient and outpatient care, cardiac rehabilitation, aquatics and wellness services.

After meeting in summer 2019, Friedman and his colleagues, in collaboration with Jeddah Park Health, devised a plan focused on elements needed for a phased opening. They discussed services to be provided, architectural design and equipment procurement, and they helped review CVs and conduct interviews to hire senior executives. They also hosted some of the center’s leaders, including its chief information officer, in Baltimore for immersion study of how Johns Hopkins provides rehabilitation services and uses its electronic medical record.

While the rehabilitation center’s opening has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Friedman says, the work continues. The team continues to meet, now online, to share information about operations and how they can be customized. “You cannot take a bunch of Johns Hopkins information and just transplant it to another place, because the resources and the culture are different in other locations,” Friedman says.

Respect for local culture is part of the design of programs, Friedman adds. At Jeddah Park, the group needed to consider how to manage cultural sensitivity regarding separate male and female treatment areas. They also built in areas for prayer to entice patients to get up and move throughout the day.

“With video conferencing, we have figured out how to be much more efficient in our distant conversations, but we miss the in-person relationship building,” he says. “We look forward to traveling and hosting clients again soon.”

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