“I was in the hospital and thought I’d better catch up on emails. I pulled out my phone and couldn’t read a thing. The nurse told me that the stroke had affected my vision and ability to read. When they brought in flashcards, and I couldn’t name simple things like a hammer or pencil, I cried. I realized my recovery was going to have to be my work,” said Patty Geer, Director of Finance, Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, and stroke survivor.
“I was 51 and too young for the rest of my life to be over," said Geer.
In June 2019, the American Heart Association released a study showing that working long hours for ten years or more is associated with stroke and that people under the age of 50 had a higher risk of stroke when they worked long hours for a decade or more. This is compounded by the trend of Americans working longer and retiring later.
Digital therapeutics and neurotechnology have the power to change how stroke victims recover, but with more Americans working longer, there's a need to put recovery directly into their hands through digital therapeutic mobile apps.
For stroke survivors like Geer, getting back to work is more than a mental necessity, it becomes a financial one as well.
Constant Therapy is a mobile app from digital therapeutics company, The Learning Corp. The app is designed for people who have had a brain injury or cognitive disorder to give them direct access to clinical exercises that can rebuild their cognitive, speech, and language functions.
Built by neuroscientists and clinicians at Boston University in 2012, the Constant Therapy app digitizes therapy through a Neuro Performance Engine (NPE) that creates a highly customized and detailed map of each user’s strengths and deficits across 80 different categories.
The company says the program in the app delivers the optimum combination of exercises uniquely tailored to each user’s needs.
"The NPE in the app is self-learning and adaptive ability to produce new exercises is limitless. Every 3.5 seconds, a patient completes an exercise, teaching the program in the process," said Michael Evers, CEO of The Learning Corp. "More than 100 million tasks have been completed by Constant Therapy users to date, allowing the NPE to discover new ways to improve individual tasks, fine-tune the sequence of therapies, and update current protocols, speeding up innovation in brain rehabilitation."
Evers says that Constant Therapy moves recovery into the patients' hands - giving them anywhere, anytime access to evidence-based exercises to help rebuild the brain.
"In a trial, patients with access to Constant Therapy did four times more therapy which resulted in a significant improvement in the patient," added Evers.
A 2019 retrospective study published in Frontiers in Neurotechnology compared outcomes among patients using tablet-based therapy at home and those who complete the same therapy in a clinic. The study found that home users took less time to master tasks than users who only practiced in the clinic. Home users also practiced therapy more frequently than clinic users.
The app can be used by the consumer on their own or is available on referral by their clinician as a complement to in-clinic programs. Currently, Brooks Rehabilitation, Cleveland Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, Kessler Institute, Memorial Hermann, Shirley Ryan, and Spaulding Rehabilitation are using the app with stroke patients.
"The cost is $25 per month which is less than the cost of an average single session with a clinician," added Evers.
“Our platform is powerful because it gives patients a more active role in their recovery [..] and it utilizes credible tech to impact patient lives in a measurable way," added Evers. "This is a product that’s been developed around real patient usage and proven clinical recovery methods, making it a tangible application of technology versus a theoretical concept."
Evers believes that traditional therapies developed decades ago just haven't kept pace with innovations in health that can change the way people can now independently monitor their exercise, diet, and sleep.
"People want access to legitimate tools that help them manage their health," added Evers.
After her stroke on Christmas eve in December 2017 which left her with cognitive and short-term memory challenges including aphasia, Geer was set on returning to her position as finance director at Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport.
Geer says she worked hard to recover with the help of a speech-language pathologist alongside Constant Therapy which she says put her back at work only three months after her stroke.
"I looked at it like 'this is my job now, getting better so I can get back to work,' I called it homework," said Geer. "It was something that I could do at home every day that makes you feel like you’re making progress because you can see it - the app helps move you along. It gave me a sense of accomplishment because I could see real advancement as I went through the exercises."
Geer says the app was a natural fit for her since 75 percent of what she does every day at work is on a computer.
"Outside of work, I use my iPad and I would play Words with Friends and then open Constant Therapy; it felt like it was in my wheelhouse," said Geer. "Until I used the app, I never would’ve thought this was something you could do that actually helped. Using tech in this way was an important part of my recovery."