Futuristic remote tech is empowering a “revolution” in stroke rehab at home
Thanks to a “technological revolution” in stroke rehabilitation, stroke recoveries could now take a smoother path, with a new interactive health system from Evolv offering telemonitored rehabilitation sessions in stroke survivors’ homes.
Designed with Microsoft’s Azure Kinect camera at its centre, the compact Evolv RehabKit can monitor a user’s precise movements, keeping a close eye on them as they take part in a series of task-based games and exercises. These form part of EvolvRehab, a pioneering virtual rehabilitation platform that runs on the RehabKit.
The therapeutic game-like activities in EvolvRehab have been designed by professional therapists to bolster stroke and brain injury survivors’ self-confidence while increasing their mobility, assisting in their ongoing progression to stand, reach, grasp, walk and speak.
Having already seen “life-changing” results in its initial phases, Evolv RehabKit could become even more transformational, according to Microsoft.
Traditional stroke rehabilitation methods are centred around patients having face-to-face sessions in hospitals and specialist centres, which can last for months and sometimes years.
In contrast, the Evolv RehabKit can be used independently at home, with sessions replicating approved exercises, personalised by professional therapists for each survivor. This frees up clinicians’ time and improves patient outcomes through engaging games while easing pressure off the NHS.
David Fried, CEO of Evolv, said: “Our goal was to help deliver rehabilitation out of the clinical setting, providing the repetitive therapeutic activity that’s required to improve outcomes for stroke survivors directly into their homes ideally, or it could be in a day centre, community centre, or residential care home. It can help take the burden off the NHS sites.
“Microsoft is a really big part of that.”
The Evolv RehabKit has also been used to benefit others needing physical rehabilitation, such as those with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, spine and brain injuries, or those who are at risk of falls.
Running from a mini-PC, EvolvRehab is powered by a suite of Microsoft technology, chiefly Azure Kinect, which captures the movement of the user. It also comes with Microsoft Teams, meaning patients and their therapists can communicate via video calls to set goals, share progress and provide feedback.
All the data gathered is stored in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Information and performance results can only be accessed by the user’s authorised physiotherapist. Healthcare professionals can also use Power BI to visualise patient performance and create user reports.
David further highlighted how the Evolv RehabKit offers a service that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
He added: “You need to treat stroke survivors like elite athletes, the same concept, training every day, a healthy lifestyle, positivity and repetition over and over again to improve performance. But you can’t have hundreds of them showing up to an NHS Trust and doing 1000s of repetitions of exercises in a rehabilitation ward.”
The rehabilitation technology has proved particularly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, where lockdown restrictions made it impossible for many therapists and stroke patients to meet in person.
In September 2020, Microsoft helped Evolv as it made more RehabKits available to healthcare teams. These were given to stroke survivors, allowing their vital progress to continue at home.
“What we try to do in our platform is offer different types of activities that touch upon different types of therapy. The important thing is the activities can be personalised to each individual at home,” David continued.
“For example, you’d be playing a game where barriers come out towards you, and you have to lift your leg to get over them, which helps balance and coordination. They are games, you are doing repetition, you are doing therapeutic activity that’s prescribed and personalised to you, but you have no idea you are doing exercise – you are simply playing a game.”
Evolv works closely with the specialist National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square, London, which is part of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It has also partnered with academic institutions such as the universities of Reading, East Anglia and Cambridge, as well as collaborating with private physiotherapy providers.
While its physical challenges offer upper and lower extremity training, and fine motor skills for the hand, EvolvRehab also contains dual-tasking ‘exergames’ (exercise while playing gaming). These combine language and motor training to encourage thinking and moving simultaneously.
For example, a word is displayed on-screen along with several pictures of different items, and the “player” must reach out and touch the correct picture of the item based on the given word. At other times, they will touch the item that rhymes with a given word or starts with a certain sound.
It is through gamifying physiotherapy with points and trophies that the EvolvRehab software ensures survivors want to continue treatment, according to Microsoft.
Evolv is part of the Microsoft for Startups and Global Social Entrepreneurship programme, a global programme that offers new companies access to technology and go-to-market and community benefits to help them grow.
EvolvRehab is currently available in 10 different languages, with clinical validation in seven countries, and has been used to provide telerehabilitation in a dozen countries.