Dr. Iversen and her partners are seeking funding to further develop the project.
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Thinking Outside the X-Box
“Patients with RA are used to having pain,” Dr. Iversen says. “So they may say, ‘Well, it doesn’t bother me that much.’ There are many creative ways computers can assist in rehabilitation. We just need to think out of the box.”
In a related project, researchers at the University of Texas (UT) at Arlington, and at Northeastern, are developing “a smart health and well-being system” called RPLAY.
Fillia Makedon, Chair of UT Arlington’s computer science and engineering department, says it allows patients to do physical therapy at home while a computer system monitors their joint motions, motor performance, and other physiological indicators. The information gathered helps the physical therapy professional better gauge how the patient’s therapy is going. The system also includes fun incentives using interactive games and social media activities.
With these games available to the patients in their own homes, therapists might be able to successfully fill the gaps between PT visits that take place in the office. Instructions for physical therapy—just as directives to take medication—can be given to patients, but those instructions don’t matter much if the patient doesn’t do the exercise or take the medicine.
“Trying to get patients to be motivated to continue the program at home, so you as the expert can advance the program, is a challenge,” Dr. Iversen says. “So this is a way of helping to augment and maximize the benefit of physical therapy.” the rheumatologist
Thomas Collins is a freelance medical writer based in Florida.