There’s an app for that. From fun to functionality, there seem to be endless options for apps for tablets and smartphones.
That’s true in the medical field as well.
Johnna Johnson, speech-language pathologist, said apps have added a new component to treating patients with aphasia. Aphasia occurs when patients lose their ability to speak and understand speech. Common causes include:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Brain tumors
- Neurological diseases like dementia
Johnson works with patients at Regional One Health’s East Campus Center for Rehabilitative Medicine. She said apps have proven very helpful for patients in several ways:
- Patients who use assisted technology to communicate can take their device with them throughout the day
- Apps allow easier practice at home
- Interactive programs keep patients motivated
- Apps can be highly personalized to meet individual needs
“An iPad is a way to modernize therapy. We can download programs for them to have daily use at home,” Johnson said.
Johnson said it’s important to consult with a professional first. Speech-language pathologists use their expertise to help patients create proper plans of care using apps.
She first examines patients to learn their strengths and limitations. Then she develops a plan. Along with one-on-one therapy sessions, that plan includes “homework” for the patient. That’s where the iPad and various apps come in.
Johnson said she selects apps based on a patient’s needs for cognition, language, speech, etc. She uses apps that let her track the patient’s progress via a visual report.
The report tells her how many words a patient can read and speak. It details their comprehension level. She uses that information to work on skills during therapy sessions.
“Different apps have different levels of complexity, and it’s important for a patient and therapist to work together to find the level that will be most helpful, and to make alterations if the patient struggles or if they make progress,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the premise of the apps is similar to what therapists have always done. They just take it into the 21st century. “We used to hand out worksheets,” she said. “With these apps, we don’t have to do paper and pencil anymore.”
Johnson has found it especially helpful with patients who use tablets and smartphones as part of regular life. “Younger patients really enjoy the iPad,” she said. “These are very interactive tools, and the apps are even kind of like games, which keeps people motivated.”
Johnson said the tools also make it easier for patients to work on their therapy at home. She sees the most progress when patients attend sessions with her and practice on their own.