ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research

Telerehabilitation as an add-on to face-to-face speech and language therapy

Project Members: Stephan Gerber, Pascal Reuse, Nadine Schmidt, Carina Röthlisberger, Narayan Schütz, René Vielgut, Prabitha Urwyler, René Müri, Tobias Nef
Project Start: 2015
Project Funding: Gottfried und Julia Bangerter-Rhyner-Stiftung, UniBE ID grant, Innosuisse

Aphasia is the loss or impairment of language functions that occurs following brain damage. This communication disorder affects different combinations of language modalities (i.e. understanding, speaking, reading, and writing) and differs in levels of severity. Stroke affects about 15,000 patients per year in Switzerland, 30% of which develop aphasia. A recent Cochrane intervention review revealed evidence for the effectiveness of using speech and language therapy (SLT) for people with aphasia following stroke in terms of functional communication, receptive and expressive language. Findings particularly highlight positive effects of higher training frequency on functional outcome. One possible approach to increase training frequency and duration is to complement face-to-face SLT with home-based tele-rehabilitation SLT.

To this end, an aphasia tele-rehabilitation application (Bern Aphasia App) was developed within a multidisciplinary team of speech and language therapists, neurologists, psychologists and computer engineers. With this application patients can train independently and the therapists still have access to the patients' performance and can select exercise types and adjust the difficulty level. 

The aim of this project is to investigate the effects of high-frequency short duration tablet-based SLT in chronic stroke outpatients in a clinical trial.

With tablet-based applications both patients and therapists can benefit from an intuitive, touch-based reliable product which fits well with the current trend of moving health treatment from hospital to home.

Keywords: Aphasia, language therapy, stroke

Publications:

Gerber SM, Schütz N, Uslu AS, Schmidt N, Röthlisberger C, Wyss P, Perny S, Wyss C, Koenig-Brühin M, Urwyler P, Nyffeler T, Marchal-Crespo L, Mosimann UP, Müri RM, Nef T (2019). Therapist-Guided Tablet-Based Telerehabilitation for Patients with Aphasia: Proof-of-Concept and Usability Study, JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies, 6(1) e13163 http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/13163