How analytics may improve stroke patients' quality of healthcare

Analytics and mobile devices make it easier for stroke patients recovering at home to stay in contact with their doctors. This approach may improve a patient's long-term recovery and quality of life.

Image: iStockphoto/AndreyPopov

Strokes are the second leading cause of death globally. Over 75% of patients survive a first stroke during the first year, and over half survive a first stroke beyond five years. Stroke survivors have a greater chance of regaining lost function than ever before, especially if they are treated within the first six hours of the occurrence of a stroke.

After the initial effects of stroke are treated, the normal course of action is stroke victims are rehabilitated and attended to by physicians specializing in neurological disorders. Stroke victims return home after a rehabilitation period, where they continue on a regimen of medication and therapy.

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Unfortunately, the information channels often break down once patients are back home. For instance, a patient might be connected to care providers and therapists whom they see at home, but the vital link between the patient and doctors is lost except for periodic visits. This disconnect can be result in a lack of effective continuous care and improvement results.

"The problem is that patients get their home visits from speech and language pathologists, but their doctors fall out of this ongoing process," said Veera Anantha, co-founder and president of Constant Therapy, which provides neurological exercises and feedback systems delivered on mobile devices like iPads. "We enable continuous communications between patients and doctors with the help of mobile technology."

The goal with such technology is to forward the patient's analytics from their home to their doctors so the physicians can get in the loop quicker. If there is a need to alter therapy, doctors have the visibility to be able to respond immediately.

"Clinics are used to using paper-based tools like flashcards and workbooks to see how well patients' cognitive abilities are improving," said Anantha. "They don't have objective measures of progress in place like, 'Did the patient have to be given a cue to get an answer? Or, did the patient have to try four or five times before he got an answer right? When we use digital tools like an iPad to perform the tests and to evaluate the results, the data can be transmitted immediately to the physician, who can then respond to the situation."

This is not a premier data analytics solution requiring large corporate investments into expensive data scientists and Hadoop databases; rather, it is the kind of ground level, common-sense analytics that are driven by very specific business cases and that can be highly effective in the right types of situations--like improving the long-term recovery and quality of life prospects for stroke patients and others with neurological disorders.

"With this digital, self-reporting technology, the missing communications dots between the doctors and their patients can be reconnected on a more continuous basis," said Anantha. "Many doctors whom we've spoken with welcome this, because they can be in a position where they can continuously monitor how their patients are doing, and they can also make immediate moves to change treatment or care when they see a need. Traditionally, continuous monitoring by physicians of patients in home settings, and the continuous application of therapy adjustments to patients once they were recovering at home, wasn't thought of. Now we have a more holistic approach to treatment that is available and that can tie into what studies already tell us: that persons with severe neurological impairment are more likely to benefit from more therapy--but to prescribe the right kind of therapy, you have to be able to see the need for it when that need first arises."

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By Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...