An application facilitates the follow-up of occupational therapy
José Pichel Andrés /DICYT A research project of the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca (UPSA) has developed an application that facilitates occupational therapy for both professionals and patients and makes it more efficient. The tool has been designed for both computers and mobile devices and helps to carry out the characteristic activities of occupational therapy: assessment, intervention, and analysis of the results.
“We wanted occupational therapists to have an instrument suitable for following up the work they do with their patients, from diagnosis to intervention and the assessment of the results”, Amparo Jiménez Vivas, professor of Educational and Professional Diagnosis at the Faculty of Education of the UPSA, pointed out to DiCYT.
“Occupational therapy is the strategy that helps people to lead a normal life, i.e. to carry out standard everyday activities”, she explains. Therapy recipients may vary greatly but generally suffer from some kind of physical, psychological, or social disability. The work essentially consists of assessing these people's ability to carry out activities, regardless of whether the patient has Alzheimer or Down's syndrome, and from this starting point making interventions when necessary.
Professionals tend to work on paper both regarding their relationship with their patients and when drawing up reports; they gather numerous data that must be filed away and they often have to travel as part of their work. In other words, the processes are carried out manually and generate a huge amount of information that is difficult to manage.
Because of this, “it seemed to us that the traditional method had its limitations when carrying out a diagnosis and following up the development of the interventions, so we decided to design an application that could be accessed from a mobile, a tablet, or a computer”, the specialist points out.
Moreover, on designing an interaction model for mobile devices the researchers took the opportunity to suggest improvements in the assessment and intervention system, as these new technologies allow approaching the therapy in a more efficient manner. Patients must carry out various tests on paper that can be done directly on the mobile device; participation is more interactive and therefore more interesting and attractive. Likewise, one of the habitual interventions is based on the use of physical colour cards; replacing these materials with interaction with touch screens is an incentive to the user and makes the therapist's job easier.
In this manner the gathering of information by the professional is also simplified as all the data are stored in the computer application. The idea is to generate a large database to cover the patient's evolution and to allow this case history to be consulted anywhere from any device.
In addition to Amparo Jiménez, Professor Amparo Casado from the Faculty of Education has also taken part in the project. Its technological nature also required the collaboration of computer experts such as Javier Bajo of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Sigeru Omatu of the Osaka Institute of Technology in Japan.
Together they have designed what is known as a "multi-agent" system, which in the field of computing has to do with the automation of tasks in a smart manner. In this case therefore the application improves the scales of assessment, generates reports, and obtains useful statistics for therapists.
The new system was assessed by occupational therapists and the results were very satisfactory as “it helped them in their professional activities and seemed to them to be both interesting and suitable”. For this reason the researchers believe that "it would be of interest to generalise the application” as from this pilot study.