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by Sofia Villegas
15 November 2023
Innovative tech-enriched hub to boost Scotland's ‘suboptimal’ treatment of strokes

In 2022, the Scottish Government published the Progressive Stroke Pathway | Alamy

Innovative tech-enriched hub to boost Scotland's ‘suboptimal’ treatment of strokes

The University of Strathclyde has developed a technology-powered hub to meet the demand for stroke recovery treatment. 

Researchers decided to take on a study on ‘technology-enriched rehabilitation hubs’ (TERHS) after recent estimates revealed that stroke survivors endure an average of less than 10 per cent of the rehabilitation time that the Royal College of Physicians recommends, which is three hours of daily therapy for at least five days per week.

Andy Kerr, co-leader of the research team said: “Global guidelines recommend that survivors of stroke receive rehabilitation therapy that is individually tailored, intensive and delivered within enriched environments.

“However, the overwhelming need for this rehabilitation far outstrips the capacity of most health care systems which don’t have enough specialist staff to deliver this service, which results in suboptimal, and often inequitable, rehabilitation."

Inpatients in the early phases of their recovery at the stroke unit in Wishaw's university hospital participated in the research, and findings revealed they went to an average of 18.7 treatment sessions with an 82 per cent attendance rate.

Deployed with the help of NHS Lanarkshire, the hub is equipped with state-of-the-art technology which incorporates gamified features such as puzzles and includes innovative devices like virtual reality treadmills.

The research director for the university's department of biomedical engineering, Philipe Rowe also led the research team. 

Kerr added:

 “Every person that has come to the centre to take part in the programme has seen an improvement – mostly in walking speed. Some have had unexpected improvements in speech too.”

Latest estimates revealed around 150000 people in Scotland suffer from a stroke each year, accounting for five per cent of the NHS budget. 

The condition can have from physical effects such as changes in sensation and muscle weakness to communication impediments such as aphasia. The months following a stroke are key to recovery, as it is when biomolecules work to re-wire the brain, so it regains lost functionality. 

The project adds to a string of previous projects from the Strathclyde team, including their recent set up of a gym-like site at the Sir Jules Thorn Centre for Co-Creation of Rehabilitation Technology where survivors can carry out high-intensity self-managed exercises safely.

Researchers will continue to monitor the effects the hubs have on participants and on the rehabilitation, they require, with plans to deploy a TERH at Maryhill Community Centre in Glasgow, and the “ultimate goal” being to open rehabilitation gyms “in easily accessible community settings across the country”, said Kerr. 

The results have been published in the journal JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies. 

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