Patients who survive a stroke have a new, constant virtual companion to turn to for support and information on their rehabilitation journey. The Stroke Buddy mobile app offers personalised advice based on the profile of the individual user, exercise videos, and a wide array of other educational resources, all on one platform. Users can also set alerts to start their exercise routine and reminders to take their medicine.
Launched at the 18th Singapore International Stroke Conference in March 2021, the app addresses key findings of a study conducted by the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) team on the support needs of stroke survivors and caregivers during the Circuit Breaker period in April 2020.
In the survey with 83 respondents, more than half reported being less active, and feeling more depressed and anxious due to the restriction of physical contact as well as suspension of face-to-face appointments at post-stroke clinics, rehabilitation services in hospitals, and community and support groups.
"Our stroke care team wanted to find a way to connect with our patients, and ensure that they can continue with their rehabilitation and access advice in the safety of their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond," said Associate Professor Deidre De Silva, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, NNI@SGH Campus.
A collaborative team from SGH and NNI specialising in the treatment of stroke, together with SingHealth’s Group Marketing Communications Department, spent nine months to develop and test the app. The team received funding from the SingHealth Duke-NUS COVID-19 Innovation Grant.
Feedback during the trial period was positive. Users found the exercise videos helpful and easy to follow. A caregiver said that a video on caring for stroke survivors, particularly how to transfer a person from a wheelchair to bed and vice versa, was very useful and helped her care effectively for her family member.
This digital platform complements face-to-face and teleconsultations with doctors and therapists. Users can state their stroke conditions and risk factors on the profile page, and highlight their goals and motivations. They can also answer a 13-point questionnaire that is internationally used to screen for post-stroke complications. Based on the issues identified, the app will offer relevant information.
"We hope these tools can empower stroke survivors and their caregivers to self-manage their conditions," said NNI Senior Staff Nurse Peggy Lim Peck Kee, who helped coordinate and produce content for the app. She gathered input from various healthcare professionals, including nurses, physiotherapists and psychologists, to make sure that the information was relevant and useful for all stroke survivors, regardless of their age or when the stroke occurred.
The app can also be used to log blood pressure readings. The data can be shared with a patient’s doctor at his or her next clinical appointment to assess if there is a need to tweak medication prescriptions.
The app is accessible by patients from anywhere in the world.
A one-stop app
The Stroke Buddy app is housed within SingHealth’s Health Buddy app so that users’ health information is consolidated and can be accessed from a single platform.
To ensure the functions are relevant and easy-to-use, the team designed the user experience and interface for elder-friendliness, with streamlined navigation and clear visuals to supplement text information for easy understanding.
"With NNI’s insights and in-depth understanding of patients’ needs, the collaborative development of exercise-monitoring and medicine-tracking functions in the app is a boon not only for stroke patients. This new functionality can help all other users to track their own exercise and medication usage too," said Ms Kathryn Ng, Deputy Group Chief Communications Officer, Marketing Communications, SingHealth.
"Stroke Buddy leverages the breadth and depth of the Health Buddy app’s features, which include a wide range of e-services, such as appointment scheduling, payment, ordering of medication, and self-monitoring trackers for blood glucose, body mass index, and more," said Mr Chan Fun Jui, Senior Manager, Group Marketing Communications, SingHealth.
With the inclusion of Stroke Buddy, Health Buddy’s ‘Specialty Care’ section now offers specialised care resources for stroke, eye care, heart, knee, liver transplant, pregnancy, and infant care. "We have noticed the trend of more patients wanting to take charge of their health via the app, as digital literacy improves amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Our ageing population also sees the importance of self-care to keep healthy and active," Mr Chan added.
As at May 2021, the Health Buddy app has had more than 1.5 million downloads and an active monthly user base of close to 300,000.
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