AN app being developed in the Hunter could prove “life-changing” for people recovering from stroke if funding is secured for clinical trials.
A team of designers, clinicians, professors and researchers from the University of Newcastle are behind a push to get funding to clinically trial the effects of an app that they think will revolutionalise stroke rehabilitation and cut into the $50 billion cost to the Australian economy.
University of Newcastle professor Mario Minichiello said stroke was the fifth biggest killer in Australia, and the second biggest disabler.
“It also costs the economy $50 billion, which is a staggering amount of money,” Professor Minichiello said.
“Unfortunately there is limited time clinicians can support people after they’ve had an event.
“They tend to send them home with materials - normally printed materials - with exercises and things that they have to follow.
“Now we are very clear that those don’t really work, and if you use a ‘gamification,’ an avatar technology model that is designed to solve a specific problem, it will, and that’s what we’ve done.
“If we can even save 2 per cent of that $50 billion – and we think it will save more – then it is a no-brainer.”
Professor Minichiello said using the app could help to change “brain plasticity” after a stroke to repair damage by helping patients work through their exercises at the right intensity.
Early testing looked promising, he said.
“The brain is already trying to rebuild itself,” Professor Minichiello said.
“It doesn’t do that with photographs, it doesn’t do that with verbal instructions, it does it through this avatar game application platform, and we’re not really sure why - that’s the research.
“We need to find out why these things are happening, how they happen.”
Professor Minichiello said the university, Hunter New England Health, HMRI, and nib supported the development of the app.
But more funding was needed to “get it across the line” into clinical trials.
They were now considering crowdfunding to raise the final $50,000.
Professor Minichiello said WiFi was invented in Australia but developed elsewhere due to a lack of funding.
“We’ve got a track record of missing big opportunities,” Professor Minichiello said.