How the experience of stroke inspired a new approach to neuro-rehabilitation
“It’s a traumatising thing to see someone get themselves into a real state”, Ian says of his father’s stroke, “and especially when there were so many unknowns as to the ultimate outcome. It’s a horrible thing to go through, not just for the patient, but for the family too”.
It might seem odd that Ian refers to the experience of a family member having a stroke in the third person, but it is this wider view of the situation – one that, unfortunately, many people find themselves in – that makes him unique.
Ian is the founder of Neuro ProActive, a new online and app-based platform that he hopes will be the rehabilitation platform for anyone who has experienced a brain injury or is living with a neurological condition, and it was his father’s stroke that set him on the journey to developing this groundbreaking new technology.
The platform is based on fully NHS Digital approved infrastructure and designed to enable a fully multi-disciplinary approach to rehabilitation, as therapists utilise end-to-end encrypted messaging and video calling to offer remote services and patient monitoring.
Not only does it allow clinicians to communicate with patients, but it also utilises cloud storage to allow Allied Health Professionals to upload PDFs, Videos, Photos and Audio files. These files can then be shared with others in that organisation and assigned to individual steps in a patient’s rehabilitation program, ensuring efficient communication of progress.
“A postcode lottery exists, no two ways about it”, Ian tells us. “The fortunate thing for us was that we were able to put Dad into private care, which gave him intensive rehab through a multi-disciplinary approach – in fact, if it wasn’t for this he wouldn’t be living independently now. So this approach is very important, I’ve come to learn, but it’s very hard to coordinate and fund”.
“Unfortunately – and this is no criticism of the staff that do this vital work, they do an amazing job with very little resource – the thing that comes up time and time again is that there’s often a gap in rehab of about six weeks between in-patient and out-patient care. Any gap is bad, but it comes at the worst possible time for a patient’s recovery”.
“We’re good with the ‘what to do’ in NHS care now, but not the ‘how do we do it’, basically due to the fact that the service needs more money. If people don’t want to assign more resource, then how can we leverage the fantastic resource of Allied Health Professionals more efficiently and effectively?”
This is where Ian believes Neuro ProActive can change things, and he feels it’s key to making neuro-rehabilitation more accessible as well. “When my Dad was in private rehab, I kept thinking ‘how many people just can’t afford this?’”, Ian says when we asked him what inspired him to create Neuro ProActive.
“If you go home, you’re saving money not being in private care”, Ian says. “With Neuro ProActive you could manage with one physiotherapy session per week and then communicate remotely through the rest of the week. It’s no equivalent to being with an Allied Health Professional, but it reduces the cost of getting someone there for the same amount of time, and could be better given the existing resource restrictions”.
Rehab does not just need to be accessible though, it also needs to meet stringent guidelines set out by NICE and other regulatory bodies. However, Ian thinks Neuro ProActive can actually do more to help here, too.
“There was a phrase that kept coming up in relation to the guidelines, which was ‘patient self-management’. How do people do that? Where is the infrastructure for it? If there is this platform that enables patients, families and clinicians to coordinate care you wouldn’t need two physio sessions a day, but could create a programme of self-management instead”.
“Now, as we’re showing the platform to people, every conversation we have people comment ‘this is bang on with the NICE guidelines and NIHR unmet needs’”.
Ian’s vision for Neuro ProActive puts families and clinicians at the heart of patient recovery, and this is how he sees his technology working: enabling people to do their best work for people who need it, instead of putting technological developments first and clinicians second. When he looks at the direction of travel for tech in healthcare, though, he has concerns.
“When I worked in the City, I used tech to do simple things very well. You have to be careful with it though, as human involvement is key”, Ian says when we ask him about the future of Neuro ProActive and health tech in general.
“It concerns me that there’s this enormous emphasis on AI in healthcare. There is a certain cohort that considers AI to be the ‘be all and end all’, and it could be the future but not for a very long time. In the meantime people will continue to suffer strokes and other brain injuries, as well as live with neurological conditions, and rely on Allied Health Professionals for their care”.
“I see Neuro ProActive gradually evolving as we move forward. Incorporating other physical devices that are needed for rehab, as well as linking to specialist software for specific impairments. The only people I listen to as to what’s needed are patients, clinicians and families – not the people in the corner office!”
As you can see, Ian is very driven to improve the way that stroke – and all brain injury – rehab works. Not just for patients, but families and clinicians too. This multi-disciplinary approach is vital for anyone who has experienced a life-changing injury and is at the heart of our own Team Around the Client approach to client care, so we understand very well the value that Neuro ProActive could bring to people involved in the rehab process.
Neuro ProActive are also sponsoring our Ahead Together Conference, taking place in September, which focuses on the impact of brain injury on families. This time our speakers, including keynote speaker Lemn Sissay, will be focusing on the impact that brain injury can have on a family’s identity, so for anyone that works in brain injury rehab this will be an important date to keep in mind.