Integrating iDevices with rehab

Providence Healthcare’s iPad project began when Occupational Therapists identified an opportunity to advance therapeutic approaches in stroke and neuro rehabilitation by incorporating the use of technology in patient care. In reviewing current literature, they found that iDevices are becoming integrated more into the rehabilitation process thanks to both their versatility as well as the greater use of technology by patients and their families.

A team of Providence Occupational Therapists and Speech-Language Pathologists researched mobile apps for use with stroke and neuro patients, later developing a process for incorporating the use of mobile tablets into patient care. Three iPads donated at the Providence Healthcare Foundation’s 2012 Silver Ball were implemented within Providence Hospital’s Stroke and Neuro Rehabilitation program for both inpatients and outpatients.


The iPads have since been used regularly in speech and occupational therapy sessions to help patients with their thinking, perception, speaking, understanding, reading and writing, and to help them learn more about stroke and its effects.

The devices have also helped other team members, including physiotherapists and nurses, provide visual feedback to patients through photos and videos.

Over a four-month trial, 98 per cent of patients using the technology reported finding the iPad helpful and 100 per cent reported they would try it again. Patients identified that the iPad could help them with practicing for return to driving, keeping the mind sharp, making the left hand better, having better awareness of what is happening with swallowing, practicing spelling, preparing for going home and continuing to work on speech therapy independently.


Therapists appreciate the iPad’s potential for augmenting current therapeutic practices with engaging apps and for providing education in a visual way that is easily understood. For example, a dysphagia app shows patients with swallowing problems what it looks like when they aspirate (have food or liquid go into their airway) using slow-motion video.

Next steps for the project include enabling patients to use the devices independently between sessions in order to practice what they have learned in therapy, and continuing to explore new apps and creative ways to use the devices to help our patients work toward their rehab goals.