Gamification Is New Trend for Physical Therapy

CAST | November 15, 2017 | by Donna Childress

Games increase patient engagement and track patients’ progress.

Gaming technologies and virtual reality have a new set of fans—physical therapists looking to motivate their patients to exercise. As a result, assisted living and skilled nursing providers and continuing care retirement communities are investing in these technologies and adjusting their care practices to fit, according to a recent article in Senior Housing News.
Senior Care Providers and Patients Excel When Therapy Is a Game” notes that patients get more engaged in games than in lifting sets of weights. They also become more competitive, competing against each other or against their own previous times, or graduating to more-complex games.
“There are definitely clear advantages to gamification of therapy,” Majd Alwan, CAST executive director and senior vice president of technology at LeadingAge, told Senior Housing News. “Number one is putting the therapy program in an entertaining context. Number two, the [technology systems] that have more sophisticated capabilities in terms of measuring the range of motion give a better assessment to the therapist and a better measure of progress or lack thereof.”
Data is a big benefit. Providers can track utilization data to see patients’ activities and progress on the games and assessment tools, such as the timed up and go (TUG) test, the sit to stand test, and the functional reach test. In addition, Alwan said in the article, gamification may reduce rehospitalization rates.
Last year, LeadingAge CAST released a case study from LeadingAge Provider Member The New Jewish Home, a nonprofit based in New York City that provides rehabilitation and post-acute and long-term care. It showed that patients who used Jintronix, a system that includes therapeutic games, had a rehospitalization rate of 5%, while rates for patients who did not use Jintronix were at 11%.
Senior living providers are jumping on the bandwagon. For example, Senior Housing News reports that Consonus Healthcare—which provides rehab through Marquis Companies, owner and operator of 24 post-acute and assisted living facilities—uses virtual reality in approximately 95% of its business.
While gaming systems can be expensive, therapists with a smaller budget can still tap the trend, said Kathy Adkins, a rehab clinical consultant/clinical performance specialist with RehabCare, part of post-acute and home health provider Kindred Healthcare in Louisville, KY.
Simpler apps can be used on a smartphone or tablet to engage and motivate patients. Games that relate to a patient’s interests are especially effective, said Adkins, though she cautions that therapists still need to personalize care.