Telerehab improves function for stroke patients

A remote rehab program helped stroke patients improve lower-body function, researchers say.  It increased the likelihood that patients would stick to an exercise regimen and improved their ability to complete tasks such as preparing meals and bathing.

Researchers, lead by Neale Chumbler, Ph.D., at the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, developed the home telerehabilitation program STeleR (short for stroke telerehab).

The study, which will be published in the August issue of the journal Stroke, involved 52 patients from VA medical centers in Atlanta, Durham, N.C., and Tampa, Fla., who had had an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke within the previous two years.  

The study compared those undergoing usual care with the group in telerehab, which consisted of three home visits, five telephone calls, and an in-home messaging device resembling a clock radio to instruct patients in exercises and adaptive strategies.

The treatment started with a home visit from a team member with a camcorder who filmed the patient's physical function and discussed the home environment, the Indiana University School of Medicine reports. Each week a teletherapist monitored and responded to information provided on the device by the patient. The therapist phoned the patients bi-weekly. The in-home treatment lasted three months, but most of the functional improvements remained at six months.

Chumbler said STeleR could be a good option for people who live in rural areas or those who have difficulty lining up transportation for routine therapy.

It's just one of a number of ways in which technology is being used to treat stroke, including providing specialty care remotely using a robot. Researchers in the UK have developed an iPad app to present information visually to help patients and families decide whether to receive or refuse thrombolysis, a time-sensitive, life-and-death decision.

And a second group of researchers in the UK have developed the video game Circus Challenge to liven up the rehab exercises, the BBC reports. FierceHealthIT reported Tuesday on a study that found physical therapy among the uses in healthcare where video games could most be effective.

To learn more:
- here's the Stroke abstract
- read the Indiana University School of Medicine announcement
- here's VA's recap
- check out this BBC story

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