Healthcare Insider Blog

Can Doctors of Physical Therapy use video games as a motivation technique in patients?

  • Healthcare Alvernia

In a recent blog post, we discussed techniques that Alvernia Doctor of Physical Therapy students can use to motivate their patients, both now and throughout their future careers.

As mentioned, one of the greatest obstacles in a patient’s recovery process is lack of motivation to do home exercises.

“Clinicians often struggle with creating attended, goal-directed activities with traditional rehabilitation techniques that can become monotonous,” explain Physical Therapy professionals in an Advance Healthcare Network article, “As a result, clinicians are constantly searching for new interventions that create an engaging experience for patients.”

One unique approach: video games.

In a recent TED Talk, physical therapy entrepreneur Cosmin Mihaiu, discussed his personal experiences with rehabilitation through physical therapy and his lack of motivation to do exercises at home.

According to Mihaiu, patient noncompliance can be as high as 70% when it comes to doing home exercises. Wanting to change that statistic and develop a fun, interactive way to get patients to do their exercises and speed up their recovery time, Mihaiu created a software platform called MIRA.

MIRA is a system allowing physical therapists to take existing physical therapy exercises that they have designated to a patient and transform them into video games. The software uses an external sensor, giving it the ability to track and assess patient improvement while they play the game and report those results back to the physical therapist.

“Low motivation and engagement are barriers in physical therapy exercises that can lead to nonadherence with therapy,” stated researchers in a Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy study.

“Video games have the potential to alleviate nonadherence because of their motivating structure,” the study continues. “Games are known for having voluntary participation, extended playtime and a high probability of being replayed.”

The study, though mostly focusing on patients with neurological insults, such as stroke victims, suggest that:

  • Video game play can induce the sort of behavioral and physiological changes that are desirable in therapy
  • Video game usage or video game–based therapies can improve patient performance on clinical measures of motor behavior
  • Participants enjoy gameplay, with respect to affect

Other software platforms, in addition to MIRA, have been developed to achieve the same goal of motivation in physical therapy. Neuroscientist David Putrino, affiliated with the nonprofit Not Impossible, developed similar software, using an airplane video game to help stroke victims with the rehabilitation process. This video game, which Putrino is calling GesAircraft, tracks patients’ progress for their physical therapist to analyze, much like MIRA.

Video games are one tactic among many being used in physical therapy to motivate patients and add variety to exercise techniques.

Alvernia Doctor of Physical Therapy students will receive countless opportunities to practice different motivational techniques through clinical work they will do over a 39-week period and discover what tactics work best for them and their patients.

Effective November 12, 2014, Alvernia University has been granted Candidate for Accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314; phone: 703-706-3245; email: accreditation@apta.org). Candidacy is not an accreditation status nor does it assure eventual accreditation. Candidate for Accreditation is a pre-accreditation status of affiliation with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education that indicates the program is progressing toward accreditation.

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