Virtual Reality for Occupational Therapy and Rehabs
By MedTech Outlook | Monday, July 29, 2019
Healthcare providers are developing VR-enabled rehabilitation systems to help patients deal with both physical as well as cognitive challenges involved in daily activities.
FREMONT, CA: Occupational therapy hinges around the use of intervention and assessment to recover, develop, or maintain meaningful activities or occupations for individuals, communities, or group. With technologies touching every nook and corner of our society, occupational therapy is not an exception either. Several studies in the past have suggested that playing games trigger dopamine releases in the brain, which has an instrumental role in how the brain deals with exploration and rewards. Virtual reality (VR) allows the patients to engage in a high dose of therapy. It also allows an individual to participate in a task with a distinct aim and to reinforce voluntary repetition.
VR can also help children suffering from neuromuscular challenges such as Cerebral palsy (CP). Especially as gaming and technology have become a part of the younger generation lifestyle, children won’t even notice that they are participating in rehabilitation.
Research Results on VR Therapy
As per the studies, engaging in graded, task-oriented, and appropriately dosed practice are critical to cortical reorganization and upper limb improvement. On the other side, conventional occupation therapy sessions dedicated to upper limb improvement post-stroke resulted in the completion of just 23 to 32 repetitions in a regular session, which is far lesser than required for improvement. At the time of sub-acute stroke rehab, an average of 4 minutes is consumed on task-specific upper limb training. VR interventions can enable an average of almost 200-300 functional movements per one-hour session.
A group of “standard occupational therapy” was compared to a randomized controlled trial with the use of the VR tool. The results established the improvement for both proximal and distal upper extremity on the Fugl-Meyer scale. The device mainly focuses on the wrist, forearm, as well as hand. It boosts the engagement in upper extremity task-based practice as negating the "learned non-use" that numerous stroke survivors experience. The participants received a 4-week face to face, intervention program that required the use of Smart Glove as an addition to the traditional occupational therapy interventions. The dosage of treatment in the study required daily intervention for 30 minutes that lasted five days a week for a total of 20 sessions. It was observed that patients who used smart glove demonstrated enhancement in health-related quality of life as per the Stroke Impact Scale than those who were not using VR intervention.
In a review of twelve VR approaches, Saposnik and Levin reported that eleven out of twelve VR systems demonstrated substantial benefit in the selected outcome measure.
VR technology is growing in leaps and bounds. Here are some of the accessible VR devices that can be influential in occupational therapy:
It’s a lightweight, silicone exo-glove that communicates with a tablet using Bluetooth technology. It has an assessment mode that detects changes in AROM and PROM as well as timing and coordination. It leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to alter parameters of activities. Even a small amount of activation can suffice and help the patients significantly.
A music glove is equipped with finger sensors to work on fine motor control and timing of the finger movement. Its interface resembles “guitar hero” that encourages an individual to sync his finger movements to the beat.
Virtual Activities of Daily Living (ADL)
It is a virtual rehabilitation system where the proprietary platform is tailored to engage the client with both physical as well as cognitive challenges involved in daily activities.
Clinical results suggest that technology can increase the count of repetitions of upper extremity movement by 60 percent in 10 sessions, thus enhancing patient efficiency in the early phase of the rehabilitation process. The main goal is to provide the patients with an immersive experience by making the device available to them near their bedside. The high level of engagement helps to reduce downtime in acute care.
Overall, there is a great future of VR in neuro-rehabilitation. Especially when most of the future patients are likely to grow up with technology such as VR, it is imperative to incorporate it in the rehabilitation process.