One of the winning entries in the recent NHS Innovation Challenge was a tablet based intervention that was designed to occupy young peoples hands and minds whilst they were being anesthetized.
It was a straightforward use of modern technology to provide improvements in care. A slightly more involved solution has recently been proposed to use an iPad app to help suffers of aphasia, which is a brain disease that inhibits language development.
It’s estimated that around 200,000 acquire the disease each year, usually due to having a stroke.
The app was put through its paces in a paper, published recently via Boston University.
The stud saw a group of aphasia sufferers given an iPad to observe how effective the devises could be in the delivery of personalized therapy to each person.
The rise of iPad therapy
The participants were divided into two groups. All participants were given a one hour session per week with a clinician, whereby they used the iPad therapy tool.
Where the two groups differed was that one group was asked to practice some tasks using the tool at home, whilst the other group made do with their one session a week.
The group that were given the home work to do performed much better on a range of standard tests for things like memory, language, attention and executive function.
What’s more, this improvement was especially significant amongst the participants who were most severely affected.
Pleasingly, even those in the control group showed some signs of improvement, suggesting that even small exposure to the app can do some good.
The researchers suggest that the app is particularly valuable because aphasia sufferers are often left alone to manage their own long-term care.
With our understanding of the brain improving however, we’re increasingly realizing just how elastic the brain is when we work on it.
“In the context of what we know about neuroplasticity, the main thing is you have to have repeated practice, repeated exposure, and you need to do it in a very structured way,” the authors say.
This is where the Constant Therapy app comes in, offering a personalized therapy plan via the iPad for people with a range of brain related injuries, including strokes and aphasia.
Users of the app can select the tasks they wish to work on, with the app then providing them with a steady stream of challenges based upon their scores on previous tasks. Alternatively, a medical professional can manually select tasks for the individual to undertake.
The research highlighted how enthusiastic patients were for working on their condition. On average, they would spend over four hours a week using the app, with the more enthusiastic among them wracking up an impressive 17 hours per week.
The motivation was always there, they just needed an easy way to channel that via something intuitive and easy to use.
The researchers are now working with the developers at Constant Therapy to see if the apps can work with other kinds of conditions, whether that’s dementia, epilepsy or children with language deficiencies.
The hope is that patients will be empowered to take control of their own rehabilitation.