When you empower patients to take control of their rehabilitation, they actually do it - Swathi Kiran


image by: scanrail


Much has been written about how digital technologies will change the game in health care, enabling consumers to play a much greater role in their own health. In fact, three years ago in a New York Times op-ed column I predicted a consumer-driven high-tech healthcare revolution. Since then a lot has happened, exceeding even my bullish predictions, especially the explosion in the number of startup companies developing a vast array of mobile sensors, wearables, health and wellness apps and a variety of clinical and consumer cloud-based services.

With the recent announcement of Apple’s Health App and HealthKit we may have reached the tipping point in the market. Health-tech is hot and getting hotter.

There is every reason to hope that this impending tidal wave of health-tech innovations, when adopted by consumers and clinical organizations, will result in significantly decreased costs for our healthcare system and improved health outcomes for patients. To track our progress we will be quantifying and measuring many things, from blood pressure declines in populations to hospital re-admission rates and much more. This will be field day for big data.

But I am worried that as we track and analyze these medical metrics, as well as internet-age business metrics such as page views, click-through rates and paid conversions, we will get caught up in the data and analytics. I hope we don’t lose sight of the higher purpose: meaningful improvement in the quality of real people’s lives.

To illustrate this, let me take the example of a company called Constant Therapy (full disclosure: I am an advisor), which offers a mobile rehabilitation app for people with brain damage. It is based on research in brain plasticity and rehabilitation at Boston University showing that individuals with chronic brain damage or disorders can continue to benefit from systematic therapy, even years after an initial progress plateau.

Constant Therapy’s app was designed to help them recover speech, language and cognitive skills by performing a series of exercises that are dynamically updated and personalized for each patient. Constant Therapy has a growing library of 58 science-based task categories and over 12,000 exercises, and is designed to be used independently at home by anyone seeking to improve function or in conjunction with a clinician as an integral part of therapy.

So, how do we measure the progress of people who use Constant Therapy? The most basic level is to measure the speed and accuracy with which patients complete the various exercises. Users regularly report notable improvements in these metrics as they use the app, which monitors every task that they perform, whether they perform it correctly or not, and — based on this data — moves them (automatically or under the guidance of a clinician) to higher levels as they progress. As they progress, patients gain confidence, and with confidence the feeling of forward progress that is so vital to sustained rehabilitation...

As we wait for science to confirm or question the validity of brain rehabilitation apps, we can be inspired by stories of functional significance – real life ones– where there seems to be the sprouts of in-life benefits of continuous rehabilitation...

In my New York Times column, I predicted that technology advances would allow us to move much of health care out of hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, and into our everyday lives. Today, we’re beginning to see that become reality. And as a technologist who sometimes gets caught up in the numbers, it’s refreshing to be reminded of what all of this new technology coming into healthcare is really all about.

Source: Frnk Moss, Excerpt from Our High-Tech Health Care Future is Coming, Let's Not Forget What It is All About, Wired

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Last Updated : Thursday, January 17, 2019