The technology driven healthcare revolution has emerged with an explosion in evidence-based health and wellness mobile apps that hold tremendous promise for patients recovering from stroke or traumatic brain injury.
Stroke or brain injury patients often get less therapy than is optimal
Patients who have suffered stroke or brain injury are likely to have chronic disabilities and compromised quality of life due to speech, language and cognitive disorders. However, they typically get very limited in-person therapy sessions with their clinicians due to physical disabilities, lack of access to clinicians, and insurance limitations.
Research has shown that continued rehabilitation for these patients can result in improvements in cognition & communication months and even years after the brain injury. Indeed in one such study (Naeser, et al, 1998), researchers found that people showed continued improvement even 5 years post-stroke.
How do we ensure that patients have adequate access to evidence-based therapy, for as long as they need it?
Developed out of research at Boston University, Constant Therapy is a software platform that provides patients access to evidence-based therapies on their mobile devices anytime they need it.
A recently published research paper (Kiran, et al, 2014) indicates that this platform standardizes the delivery of rehabilitation using a systematic workflow and also individualizes treatment for each patient. In a clinical study with 51 patients who practiced personalized therapy tasks using this tablet-based software at their homes and during weekly visits to the clinic, researchers observed positive treatment outcomes (Des Roches et al., in Press). Importantly, this preliminary work has given the opportunity to further examine treatments that work for specific individuals, allowing the prediction of possible outcomes even before assigning specific therapies to specific individuals.
Positive treatment outcomes observed
The use of data analytics in the practice of delivering therapy can have far reaching impact. A recent paper published in the International Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation shows a case in which sudden large-scale fluctuations in language and cognitive performance reported by the Constant Therapy app allowed the detection of a patient’s second stroke. The second stroke was later confirmed in a subsequent clinic visit and the patient continued to make language and cognitive function gains after the event. In the future, we can expect data scientists to help us predict outcomes and better understand how people learn and re-learn skills after adverse events that affect the brain.
Mobile rehabilitation software platforms not only enable clinicians to use data to make better decisions, but also enable patients to see their own progress. Constant Therapy users have noted that they can now track their own progress, which gives them ownership over their therapy and motivates them to do better.
Making therapy more accessible
Stroke survivor Mary B., a former elementary school principal, speaks to the versatility of the app, and that she can use it whenever she has spare time, whether that’s while in a doctor’s office waiting room or on public transportation.
We need to continue to ensure that we are making personalized therapy as accessible and as effective as possible for patients. Constant Therapy is one such opportunity, offering research-based tasks for patients and clinicians, with data to drive and motivate progress. It is available on iPad and Android tablets and smartphones, making therapy accessible on more mobile platforms to patients whenever they need it.