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Pocket Technology Provides Instant Report Card for Rehab Patient, Family


Rehabilitation patients at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System have help in the palm of their hand tracking progress toward their recovery goals. RehabTracker is a phone app that enables the patient to view updates from their therapy team, track progress on areas of functional improvement and share the results with designated friends and family. Through a partnership with Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services (KHRS), this app has been made available to Community Healthcare System patients.

At Community Hospital, Munster, St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center, Hobart, the app to date, has been used exclusively in the hospitals’ Acute Rehabilitation Centers. Staff on the units care for patients with strokes, traumatic/non-traumatic brain injuries, amputations, spinal cord injuries, cardiac or pulmonary issues or broken leg/hip replacements. A patient’s typical stay is 10 to 12 days. Patients spend three hours of their day with physical, speech and occupational therapists.

“For patients who have had a stroke or an injury such as a hip fracture, RehabTracker enables them to view their goals, track progress and enhance communication in their support circle,” explained Muhammad Khan, physical therapist and program director, St. Catherine Hospital, Rehab Unit where the app was first piloted by KHRS for the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.

Family members “see” a corresponding daily grid to follow their loved ones’ results on their smart device. There are 18 different goals that are being measured ranging from bathing, upper body dressing, lower body dressing, fully assisted, partially independent to fully independent.

After uploading designated contacts from their address book, the patient can choose which goals to share. Of the 18 different measurements, they can choose which ones family members may view.

“Developing a care plan based off of goals that are important to the patient helps to keep the patient motivated and gives them something to focus on,” said Sandra Morrison, physical therapist, St. Mary Medical Center. “The RehabTracker app allows the patient to visually see their progress toward the goals identified as important to them.”

Therapists use the app as they work with and assist the patient to put instructions, goals or words of encouragement on an iPad that they carry with them and show the patient as they progress. Patients who want the app downloaded to their Android or Apple phone need to sign a consent. Therapists then help to set up the app which displays:

  • The patient’s current status or “baseline” status
  • Short and long-term goals (such as how far to walk with a walker, with assistance or alone; dressing with assistance; grooming; daily living skills
  • The daily grid which includes “Transfers” to and from the toilet, chair and bed
  • An activity page that includes points earned for completing goals in Grooming/Comprehension/Memory

Goal prompts work much like wristband activity trackers with symbols for Fully Assisted; Partially Assisted or Fully Independent. Patients get a “star” for each task and move through a series of stepping stones (blue dots) as they progress. Patients collect a flag when they have achieved a goal.

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Besides meeting all goals, the Acute Rehabilitation Centers staff also prepares patients for going home by offering family training. Family members planning to take care of their loved one once home again come in and review the goals: everything the patient will do at home and then does it…walking, stairs, getting in and out of a car, in and out of bed, bathroom, shower.

“We usually offer this training near the end of the patient’s stay, but with enough time to adjust plans as necessary,” said Michael Flores, physical therapy assistant, Community Hospital. “With RehabTracker, the fact that the family can follow their loved one the whole time they are here instead of just one time is really important.”

“If a family member is going to be responsible for the patient’s care after they are discharged from the hospital, they need to know in advance what they can do and what tasks they will need help with,” Khan explained. “Keeping treatment focused on goals helps.”

“It is a great tool to keep families involved with their loved one’s progress when they cannot be here during therapy sessions,” said Morrison.

“With RehabTracker, we are able to really explain what is going on with their family members, have a better conversation and better communicate with the family,” Flores said.

Since the app was first launched at St. Catherine Hospital, more than 90 percent of the therapists have used it in their daily treatment program. Nearly 88 percent of the patients at the hospital have been engaged in RehabTracker as well.

“Our patients are medically complex; their conditions are challenging, so it helps them focus on their goals,” Khan said. “Motivating them every day is a big challenge and we have seen improvement in our Functional Gain scores since January. We don’t know yet if it helps with a patient’s recovery, but we do believe that motivation by any means, whether it is sharing stories or information, helps with a patient’s recovery. We believe that motivating patients on a daily basis can help to speed recovery.”

For more information about the programs and services at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, visit comhs.org.

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