Pioneering new health tech combines physiotherapy with gaming
According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, 280,000 people every year across the UK are admitted to A&E after a fall, costing the NHS £1.5 billion annually. They also suggest that if everyone 65+ at risk of falling was referred to physiotherapy, 160,000 falls could be prevented, saving the NHS £250 million each year.
But could this physiotherapy be undertaken in a home setting? One pioneering health tech organisation being trialled by the NHS, MIRA Rehab, believes so.
MIRA is a software application transforming traditional physiotherapy exercises into video games, making therapy easier to follow and more engaging for older people, with main target conditions including Parkinson’s, arthritis, stroke and arm and shoulder fractures.
Used via TV screen or monitor, the games are currently being utilised by physiotherapists at 60 clinics and being played by more than 650 patients – a number that is regularly increasing.
Mark McGlinchey, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist, Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust who has worked on NHS trials with MIRA, says; “MIRA has the potential for patients to be more active in their rehabilitation, which should result in improved patient and service outcomes.”
Recognising MIRA’s achievements, it has just been announced as a category finalist in the AXA PPP Health Tech & You Awards, 2017 – a programme which aims to discover and support emerging health tech innovation to help people in a clinical setting, in the workplace or at home.
‘Exergames’ – where physio and games meet
Software designer Cosmin Mihaiu and MIRA co-founders; Andrei Cantea, Andrei Dascalu and Alina Calin, came up with the concept of MIRA while still at college. The idea was inspired by a conversation about the difficulties friends and family had experienced with physiotherapy. Cosmin himself had found home exercises ‘boring and painful’ after breaking his arm as a child, resulting in a prolonged recovery time.
The student team deduced that if a seven year old found physiotherapy difficult, then many other people with movement problems could be finding this too. From this realisation, the idea for MIRA emerged; combining physiotherapy with game-playing; creating what are known as ‘Exergames’ that could be enjoyed by patients of all ages, including older people.
MIRA Rehab is easy to install on a computer and can be used directly from a laptop or PC, or for a better experience, linked up to a screen in a clinical setting or at a patient’s’ home. The animated character games on MIRA invite patients to complete set recommended movements to progress through each game level, concentrating on different physiotherapy areas. As a result, patients are playing while at the same time actually recovering. The patient’s performance data is tracked; storing repetitions to gauge movement improvement or detecting issues for therapists to adapt individual treatment accordingly.
From mobility scooter to driving again
One patient, who has benefitted from MIRA Rehab, is 84 year-old Beryl Fenby from Manchester, who after two hip replacements and several knee operations was finding she could only walk by bending double and using a kitchen trolley or even an outdoor mobility scooter, indoors. Having always been a very independent person; holding down a job as well as bringing up three sons, made Beryl very anxious, having to struggle to keep moving and also losing her independence.
Beryl was introduced to MIRA Rehab Exergames through a trial run by the University of Manchester. Although sceptical at first, Beryl soon began to feel the benefits: her mobility and balance improved through a series of animated cartoon games designed for older people to play. Since following the programme, Beryl has regained her independence and ability to move freely around the house; to the extent that she is even able to drive her car again!
Recognition for MIRA
As well as being a finalist in the Health Tech & Age category in the AXA PPP Health Tech & You Awards 2017, MIRA Rehab was previously a finalist in Microsoft’s annual competition ‘Imagine Cup’; a global software competition for students. They also won the Best Social Enterprise by the Global Startup Awards in December last year.
Now in its third year, the AXA PPP Health Tech & You Awards is an initiative led by AXA PPP healthcare that has established and promoted widespread awareness of the rapid rise of health tech and continues to empower people everywhere to use technology to live life well today and in the future and be more in control of their health and wellbeing.
Award winners will be announced on 27th April at a gala awards ceremony at the new Design Museum in London. An exhibition showcasing all 17 finalists, including MIRA Rehab, as well as winners from years 1 and 2 of Health Tech & You will be at the Design Museum from 27th April to 8th May 2017.