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Could chatbot tech revolutionise brain injury care?



Chatbot technology has emerged as a possible tool to support brain injury rehab, with a study suggesting its potential to boost at-home recovery between clinical therapy sessions.

Chatbot technology is defined by IBM as “a computer programme that simulates conversation with human end users, often using NLP to parse inputs and generative AI to automate responses”.

Research led by Dr. Judith Hocking of Flinders University suggests that it could have some usefulness in brain injury rehab. The study focused on the efficacy of RehabChat, a specialised chatbot developed by the research team, in supporting traumatic brain injury patients throughout their rehabilitation journey.

It aimed to test the technology as a tool that could potentially help to address the challenges faced during periods when face-to-face clinical visits are sporadic or inaccessible.

Dr. Hocking emphasised RehabChat’s pivotal role in aiding patients in overcoming common obstacles such as motivation, memory retention, and goal tracking, previously reliant on conventional clinical therapy sessions for momentum maintenance.

“Our findings showcase that RehabChat, accessible within the confines of one’s home, user-friendly, programmable, and interactive, effectively maintains the rehabilitation schedule between clinical appointments,” Dr. Hocking noted. “Moreover, the sustained adherence to an at-home schedule and accomplishment of milestones may contribute to fostering new neuronal connections, aligning with the objectives of rehabilitation.”

Associate Professor Belinda Lange, a Digital Health researcher, highlighted the study’s significance in advancing rehabilitation care for TBI patients. “This study builds upon previous research, leveraging technology from Flinders University startup Clevertar. RehabChat’s capacity to incorporate client goals and practice activities aligns seamlessly with existing rehabilitation options,” she explained.

Professor Lange emphasisd ongoing developmental efforts to evolve RehabChat, aligning with clinical needs to optimize client outcomes and sustained engagement with therapy at home. The team is furthering research through grants from the Lifetime Support Authority and the Caring Futures Institute Accelerator Grant scheme, actively seeking participation from brain injury or stroke-affected individuals and clinicians to provide feedback on RehabChat, with participants receiving a $50 gift card as an incentive.

The ongoing research signifies a significant step towards preparing RehabChat for broader implementation in brain injury rehabilitation, promising a future where technology-driven solutions offer continual support and advancements in TBI recovery.

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