Study examines the benefits of virtual stroke rehabilitation programs

September 02, 2020

While virtual medical and rehabilitation appointments seemed novel when COVID-19 first appeared, they now seem to be part of the new norm and might be paving the way to the future.

A recent review paper, co-authored by Brodie Sakakibara with the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management (CCDPM) has determined that virtual appointments, in the form of telerehabilitation, also work for people recovering from a stroke.

After a stroke, a client is provided with a therapy program to help re-gain loss of skills or motion--this can range from speech and memory, strength, balance and endurance. While not initially introduced for disease outbreaks, Sakakibara a UBCO assistant professor says research shows remote therapy can be effective during stroke recovery.

"Telerehabilitation has been promoted as a more efficient means of delivering rehabilitation services to stroke patients while also providing care options to those unable to attend conventional therapy," says paper co-author Sakakibara. "These services can be provided to remote locations through information and communication technologies and can be accessed by patients in their homes."

To learn how effective telerehabilitation can be, six different clinical trials--examining stroke telerehabilitation programs--were launched across Canada as part of a Heart and Stroke Foundation initiative. People recovering from a stroke were provided with interventions ranging from lifestyle coaching to memory, speech skills and physical-exercise training.

"Researchers from each of the six trials came together to write a review paper describing their experiences conducting a telerehabilitation study, and to report on the facilitators and barriers to the implementation of telerehab services within a research context," says Sakakibara.

Going forward with telerehabilitation as a new reality, Sakakibara says the study authors determined there are important lessons learned from each of the six trials. Most notably, the efficacy and cost of telerehabilitation is similar to that of traditional face-to-face management. He also notes patients mostly reported satisfaction with the telerehabilitation when therapists were trained appropriately, and when there was some social interaction. Overall, clinicians prefer face-to-face interactions but will use telerehabilitation when face-to-face is not feasible.

And finally, since seniors are a key target group for stroke rehabilitation--as stroke is associated with aging--the technology needs to be easy to use and suit the needs of the end users.

"The older adult of today, in terms of technology comfort and use, is different than the older adult of tomorrow," he says. "While there might be some hesitation of current older adults using technology to receive health and rehab services, the older adult of tomorrow likely is very comfortable using technology. This represents a large opportunity to develop and establish the telehealth/rehabilitation model of care."

Sakakibara notes COVID-19 has amplified the necessity for telehealth and telerehabilitation for many Canadians--especially those in remote areas or for the estimated 70 per cent of stroke victims who are no longer able to drive.

"Prior to the outbreak, telehealth/rehabilitation was highly recommended in Canadian stroke professional guidelines, but was underused," he says. "Now in response to COVID-19, the use of telerehabilitation has been accelerated to the forefront. Once these programs are implemented in practice, it'll be part of the norm, even when the outbreak is over. It is important that we develop and study telerehabilitation programs to ensure the programs are effective and benefit the patients."
-end-
The review paper, partially funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, was prepared by a team of researchers from across Canada. It was published recently in Telemedicine and e-Health.

University of British Columbia Okanagan campus

Related Stroke Articles from Brightsurf:

Stroke alarm clock may streamline and accelerate time-sensitive acute stroke care
An interactive, digital alarm clock may speed emergency stroke care, starting at hospital arrival and through each step of the time-sensitive treatment process.

Stroke patients with COVID-19 have increased inflammation, stroke severity and death
Stroke patients who also have COVID-19 showed increased systemic inflammation, a more serious stroke severity and a much higher rate of death, compared to stroke patients who did not have COVID-19, according a retrospective, observational, cross-sectional study of 60 ischemic stroke patients admitted to UAB Hospital between late March and early May 2020.

'Time is vision' after a stroke
University of Rochester researchers studied stroke patients who experienced vision loss and found that the patients retained some visual abilities immediately after the stroke but these abilities diminished gradually and eventually disappeared permanently after approximately six months.

More stroke awareness, better eating habits may help reduce stroke risk for young adult African-Americans
Young African-Americans are experiencing higher rates of stroke because of health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, yet their perception of their stroke risk is low.

How to help patients recover after a stroke
The existing approach to brain stimulation for rehabilitation after a stroke does not take into account the diversity of lesions and the individual characteristics of patients' brains.

Kids with headache after stroke might be at risk for another stroke
A new study has found a high incidence of headaches in pediatric stroke survivors and identified a possible association between post-stroke headache and stroke recurrence.

High stroke impact in low- and middle-income countries examined at 11th World Stroke Congress
Less wealthy countries struggle to meet greater need with far fewer resources.

Marijuana use might lead to higher risk of stroke, World Stroke Congress to be told
A five-year study of hospital statistics from the United States shows that the incidence of stroke has risen steadily among marijuana users even though the overall rate of stroke remained constant over the same period.

We need to talk about sexuality after stroke
Stroke survivors and their partners are not adequately supported to deal with changes to their relationships, self-identity, gender roles and intimacy following stroke, according to new research from the University of Sydney.

Standardized stroke protocol can ensure ELVO stroke patients are treated within 60 minutes
A new study shows that developing a standardized stroke protocol of having neurointerventional teams meet suspected emergent large vessel occlusion (ELVO) stroke patients upon their arrival at the hospital achieves a median door-to-recanalization time of less than 60 minutes.

Read More: Stroke News and Stroke Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.