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Flinders Uni’s RehabChat Boosts At-Home Brain Injury Rehabilitation

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Flinders University has conducted a small-scale study showcasing the immense potential of chatbot technology, specifically the innovative RehabChat, in supporting the recovery journey of individuals with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). This technology, developed by the research team, aims to bridge the gap in at-home rehabilitation, providing continuous support and motivation between clinical therapy visits, which are often spaced out or inaccessible.

Image Credits: Flinders University, Press Release

The study, led by Dr Judith Hocking, highlights RehabChat’s ability to assist participants in maintaining motivation and effective goal-setting, addressing challenges such as motivation, memory, and goal tracking that were traditionally reliant on face-to-face clinical therapy appointments. Given the global prevalence of approximately 27 million new TBI cases diagnosed annually, this research signals a significant step forward, paving the way for broader clinical trials in the near future.

Dr Hocking emphasised the pivotal role played by RehabChat in overcoming common issues faced by patients, attributing its success to its availability at home, user-friendly interface, programmability, and interactive features. She stated, “Our study found that because RehabChat is available in the home, easy to use, programmable and interactive, it can help maintain the rehabilitation schedule between clinical appointments.”

The study, published in the Clinical Rehabilitation journal, involved six participants regularly interacting with RehabChat, comprising both clinicians and patients. Dr Hocking revealed that RehabChat was well-received by participants, showcasing its potential to address challenges in motivation, memory, and goal tracking effectively.

The primary objective of RehabChat is to provide a platform supporting clients between scheduled therapy appointments, ensuring they remain engaged in their rehabilitation goals and activities. Clinicians closely monitored clients using RehabChat during weekly appointments, overseeing the relevance and safety of the entered content. Dr Hocking explained that the chatbot aided client motivation levels and engagement by helping the client to make well-thought-out decisions regarding their rehab in consultation with their clinician.

Digital Health researcher Associate Professor Belinda Lange stressed that the study builds upon earlier research where RehabChat was co-designed with clients and clinicians, utilising technology from Flinders University startup Clevertar. The study revealed that the ability to input client goals and practice activities into RehabChat was effective and aligned with existing rehabilitation options.

The positive feedback and consistent results from participant scores in motivation, well-being, and therapy engagement underscored the potential of RehabChat to enhance rehabilitation care and improve clinical outcomes for TBI clients. Associate Professor Lange expressed the commitment to ongoing development, ensuring that RehabChat evolves to meet clinical needs and continues to prioritise client outcomes and therapy engagement at home.

The preliminary results indicated that RehabChat is user-friendly on a daily basis, with both clients and clinicians quickly adapting to the technology during the two-week pilot trial. The research team is now poised to expand the study, anticipating wider applications in brain injury rehabilitation.

Associate Professor Belinda Lange, a Digital Health researcher, shared insights into the future direction of RehabChat, mentioning ongoing research funded by grants from the Lifetime Support Authority and the Caring Futures Institute Accelerator Grant scheme. The research team, led by Professor Lange, is actively recruiting individuals with brain injuries or strokes, along with clinicians, to participate in providing valuable feedback on the effectiveness of RehabChat.

This research marks a significant step toward preparing RehabChat for broader use in brain injury rehabilitation, showcasing the potential of chatbot technology in revolutionising at-home rehabilitation and supporting individuals on their recovery journey. For more information about the RehabChat project or to participate in the study, interested individuals are encouraged to contact the research team.


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