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Video game-based therapy improves patient outcomes



Video game-based therapy can improve patient outcomes and reduce therapist hours and treatment costs, according to a new study.

Traditional stroke rehabilitation is expensive and time consuming, with patients having to make their own way to appointments.

A team of researchers in the US utilised motion sensor game Recovery Rapids to allow stroke survivors to improve their motor skills and affected arm movements at home.

A therapist checked in periodically via telehealth.

The researchers found that the game-based therapy led to similar outcomes as in-person constraint-induced therapy, while requiring only one-fifth of the therapist hours.

The approach saved time and money and made therapy much more convenient for patients.

Rachel Proffitt, assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, said:

“As an occupational therapist, I have seen patients from rural areas drive more than an hour to come to an in-person clinic three to four days a week, where the rehab is very intensive, taking three to four hours per session, and the therapist must be there the whole time.

“With this new at-home gaming approach, we are cutting costs for the patient and reducing time for the therapist while still improving convenience and overall health outcomes, so it’s a win-win.

“By saving time for the therapists, we can also now serve more patients and make a broader impact on our communities.”

Traditional home rehab exercises can be repetitive and monotonous, making it less likely for patients to fully engage.

Recovery Rapids adds an element of fun to home rehabilitation, and the researchers saw that the patients adhered to their prescribed exercises.

“The patient is virtually placed in a kayak, and as they go down the river, they perform arm motions simulating paddling, rowing, scooping up trash, swaying from side to side to steer, and reaching overhead to clear out spider webs and bats, so it’s making the exercises fun,”  Proffitt explained.

“As they progress, the challenges get harder, and we conduct check-ins with the participants via telehealth to adjust goals, provide feedback and discuss the daily activities they want to resume as they improve.”

The researcher added:

“I am passionate about helping patients get back to all the activities they love to do in their daily life.

“Anything we can do as therapists to help in a creative way while saving time and money is the ultimate goal.”

Home video game-based therapy has exploded in popularity since the start of the pandemic.

In 2020, Evolv’s RehabKit helped stroke patients around the UK continue their therapy at home while the world was in shutdown.

Image: Biodex