To answer challenges in the area of neurological rehabilitation, Peili Vision has developed a solution that supports patients in their recovery processes by utilising advanced virtual reality (VR) technology. This CE-marked innovation brings significant advancements in social and healthcare in both public and in private sectors by enabling post stroke rehabilitation from home. Peili Vision has piloted the solution with the University of Oulu and is now proceeding with the testing in the Oulu WelfareLab to scale and further develop the product. The company has already helped hundreds of patients, including those living in remote areas that face a shortage of professional therapists.
Combining modern technology and rehabilitation
VR is widely used in gamification, but can it also affect a person’s physical health? Peili Vision’s idea for speech therapy proves that VR can be successfully implemented in patient rehabilitation.
The innovative solution consists of VR software, headgear and a tablet. By means of the headgear, patients transfer themselves to a virtual world designed by a therapist and perform exercises customised to stimulate their personal rehabilitation processes. The goal of this innovation is to empower rehabilitees to train in the most effective way possible, in their homes, and to ease the workload of healthcare professionals.
The VR platform works well even with older patients who do not know much about modern technology.
‘It is not about the age but about an open mind that is willing to accept and test innovations,’ said Essi Haaraniemi, speech and language therapist in Oulu’s rehabilitation services.
The innovation features seven types of programs and more than twenty realistic training environments customised to specific rehabilitation needs. It not only offers linguistic skills training but also improves the patient’s ability to focus.
‘Training environments in hospital settings are not versatile enough or easily adaptable. The Peili Vision’s solution adds more diversity to the rehabilitation process as it offers patients virtual environments they are familiar with, for example, a kitchen, a living-room, a summer cottage or a garage. This, in turn, may allow rehabilitation to progress with better results,’ explained Haaraniemi.
According to the Brain Association, in Finland, tens of thousands of patients are left without the necessary help due to a lack of the resources needed to rehabilitate. Those living in remote areas, for example, may find their recovery delayed or even impossible. Solutions supported by modern technology can address this problem by enabling remote therapy.
In this way, the rehabilitation process that requires co-operation between a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, and physiotherapist becomes much easier because the gathered data can be easily interpreted and shared.
Collaborate to innovate
Oulu is widely considered to be at the forefront of digital health, so it is naturally one of the best places to work on innovations. The city is also home to the OuluHealth ecosystem that supports the development and implementation of new solutions in the health and social sectors. One of the ecosystem’s assets is OuluHealth Labs, created especially to help companies ensure faster implementation of innovations.
In spring 2019, a patient who suffers from aphasia, which severely affects a person’s ability to use or understand words, tested Peili Vision’s solution. After three months of pilot testing with the use of the VR tool, the patient showed a 76% improvement in speech.
Currently, pilot testing continues in Oulu WelfareLab, one of the three test and development environments that allow companies to develop their products and services under authentic conditions.
‘Oulu WelfareLab is a unique environment as it enables testing in social and health care processes as well as in citizens’ homes in Oulu. In this way, companies receive invaluable feedback not only from social and health professionals but also from real end-users,’ said Jaana Kokko, Technology Specialist in Welfare Services in Oulu.
This opportunity is available due to intensive collaboration among the city of Oulu, social and healthcare service providers, academia and the private sector.
The intent is to continue testing on a wider scale to receive feedback from customers who will use the solution at home for about five weeks. They will exercise 30 minutes a day and be assisted by a professional for guidance and support, in the case of technical problems, for example. Exercises in the VR environment will be customised to personal rehabilitation needs. The Peili Vision’s solution will provide clear feedback on recovery progress to both the patient and the speech-language pathologist, who can monitor the results and time spent exercising as well as add or modify exercises.
‘It is important for the city of Oulu to make sure that new methods to support patients’ independent living are introduced. This includes rehabilitation and social and health care services provided remotely. In the future, patients will be more in control of their recovery processes and health conditions in general,’ added Kokko.
‘Through this testing we are hoping to scale the research pilot results so that hundreds of rehabilitation patients in remote areas can get the help they need,’ commented Jussi Auvinen, CEO at Peili Vision.
Peili Vision’s solution for neurological rehabilitation has been used by more than 15 hospitals so far. In the near future, the company is planning to scale the intensive home neurorehab concept, with a special focus on VR.