New trial telehealth system helps stroke patients recover at home

NUH staff, act as patient using an Ipad to demonstrate the exercising, the technology works that NUH is introducing a new telehealth system to monitor the recovery of stroke patients at home. Stroke patients may now be able to recover in the comfort
NUH staff, act as patient using an Ipad to demonstrate the exercising, the technology works that NUH is introducing a new telehealth system to monitor the recovery of stroke patients at home. Stroke patients may now be able to recover in the comfort of their own homes, thanks to a new telehealth system that is being tested. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Stroke patients may now be able to recover in the comfort of their own homes, thanks to a new telehealth system that is being tested.

These patients often find it hard to go to the hospital for rehabilitation, noted Associate Professor Gerald Koh, who heads the project . "It's hard for them to move around or get to a hospital and they have to wait for a caregiver to bring them there."

"With this system, caregivers can do the exercises with them anytime," said Prof Koh, who is from the Saw Swee Hock of School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The new tele-rehabilitation system can free up beds and manpower in community hospitals, said Ms Carolina Png, Deputy Director of Allied Health at the Ang Mo Kio Thye Hua Kwan Hospital (AMK-THKH). "Therapists can spend more time on those that need intensive rehab," she added.

NUS is currently testing the system with eight patients at the Singapore General Hospital and AMK-THKH. Each patient goes through a three-month trial. Researchers hope to expand the trial to 50 patients in the next two years.

How the system works is that it uses sensors and a specialised app called Home Rehab to monitor the recovery activities of patients, who can hold teleconferences with their therapists once a week to review their condition.

Therapists can also monitor the exercises done at home by patients, who are provided with iPads and sensors.

Patients sit in front of the iPad and carry out exercises prescribed by their therapists. A sensor band is strapped onto the specific bodypart which the patient is asked to exercise. The sensors capture the angle and speed at which a patient is doing exercises such as arm extensions. This data is then communicated to the iPad via bluetooth.

If the patient is doing the exercise correctly, the word "good" flashes on the screen. The patient is also being recorded on a webcam as he does the exercises.

The Home Rehab app also graphs the patient's exercise data so therapists can check for anomalies at a glance. Therapists can also look at recordings of the exercise session to check what is wrong.