Background: In the United Kingdom, stroke is the single largest cause of adult disability and results in a cost to the economy of £8.9 billion per annum. Service needs are currently not being met; therefore, initiatives that focus on patient-centered care that promote long-term self-management for chronic conditions should be at the forefront of service redesign. The use of innovative technologies and the ability to apply these effectively to promote behavior change are paramount in meeting the current challenges.
Objective: Our objective was to gain a deeper insight into the impact of innovative technologies in support of home-based, self-managed rehabilitation for stroke survivors. An intervention of daily walks can assist with improving lower limb motor function, and this can be measured by using technology. This paper focuses on assessing the usage of self-management technologies on poststroke survivors while undergoing rehabilitation at home.
Methods: A realist evaluation of a personalized self-management rehabilitation system was undertaken in the homes of stroke survivors (N=5) over a period of approximately two months. Context, mechanisms, and outcomes were developed and explored using theories relating to motor recovery. Participants were encouraged to self-manage their daily walking activity; this was achieved through goal setting and motivational feedback. Gait data were collected and analyzed to produce metrics such as speed, heel strikes, and symmetry. This was achieved using a “smart insole” to facilitate measurement of walking activities in a free-living, nonrestrictive environment.
Results: Initial findings indicated that 4 out of 5 participants performed better during the second half of the evaluation. Performance increase was evident through improved heel strikes on participants’ affected limb. Additionally, increase in performance in relation to speed was also evident for all 5 participants. A common strategy emerged across all but one participant as symmetry performance was sacrificed in favor of improved heel strikes. This paper evaluates compliance and intensity of use.
Conclusion: Our findings suggested that 4 out of the 5 participants improved their ability to heel strike on their affected limb. All participants showed improvements in their speed of gait measured in steps per minute with an average increase of 9.8% during the rehabilitation program. Performance in relation to symmetry showed an 8.5% average decline across participants, although 1 participant improved by 4%. Context, mechanism, and outcomes indicated that dual motor learning and compensatory strategies were deployed by the participants.
The global incidence of stroke is set to escalate from 15.3 million to 23 million by 2030 . In the United Kingdom, stroke is the largest cause of disability [ ] resulting in a cost to the economy of £8.9 billion a year [ ]. It is estimated that following a stroke, only 15% of people will gain complete recovery for both the upper and lower extremities [ ]. Walking and mobility are prominent challenges for many survivors who report the importance of mobility therapy [ ]. Nevertheless, rehabilitative service needs cannot always be met and therefore initiatives that focus on patient-centered care promoting long-term self-management remain at the forefront of service redesign [ ].
The adoption of technological solutions allows for patient and carer empowerment and a paradigm shift in control and decision-making to one of a shared responsibility. It also has the potential to reduce the burden for care professionals, and support the development of new interventions . Incorporating technology into the daily lives of stroke survivors can be achieved by maintaining high levels of usability, acceptance, engagement, and removing any associated stigma involved with the use of assistive technology [ ].
Technological aids for poststroke motor recovery hitherto have required the use of expensive, complex, and cumbersome apparatus that have typically necessitated the therapist to be present during use [, ]. Recently, inexpensive, wearable, commercially-available sensors have become a more viable option for independent home-based poststroke rehabilitation [ , ]. A systematic review by Powell et al [ ] identified a number of wearable lower-limb devices that have been trialed, such as robotics [ – ], virtual reality [ ], functional electrical stimulation (FES) [ , ], electromyographic biofeedback (EMG-BFB) [ , ], and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation [ ]. Of the identified trials exploring improvements in the International Classification of Functioning (ICF) domain of activities and participation, only 1 [ ] found significant improvements. Studies that adopt a positivist randomized controlled trial paradigm often fail to give sufficient consideration as to how intervention components interact [ ]. Indeed, creating and developing technological solutions for complex long-term conditions is challenging and requires multiple stakeholder input [ ].
The Self-management supported by Assistive, Rehabilitation and Telecare Technologies consortium explored rehabilitation for stroke survivors focusing initially on the use of wearable sensors to support upper limb feedback on the achievement of functional goals [– ]. User interface design, the practicalities surrounding deployment, and the ability of the participants to interact with the technology were explored [ ].
The intervention model for the stroke system was based around a rehabilitation paradigm underpinned by theories of motor relearning and neuroplastic adaptation, motivational feedback, self-efficacy, and knowledge transfer [– ]. In order to enhance and strengthen previous research, a realist evaluation [ ] was adopted to evaluate the final personalized self-management rehabilitation system (PSMrS) prototype in order to gain an insight into the value, usability, and potential impact on an individual’s ability to self-manage their rehabilitation following a stroke [ ].
The aim of this work was to understand the conditions under which technology-based rehabilitation would have an impact (outcome) on the motor behavior of the user—more specifically what would work for whom, in what context, and in what respect utilizing a realist evaluation framework . This paper addresses this by focusing on the impact smart insole technology has on participants at home. The impacts are assessed by analyzing a participants’ gait over time, which are then presented and discussed.
Futhermore, the rehabilitation system, its architecture, and technical components are presented along with the evaluation of the prototype with regards to the performance and usability of the system in the homes of stroke survivors.