Stroke patients to receive Wii therapy via NBN

Stroke patients will be some of the first people to benefit from the National Broadband Network via a project to deliver remote rehabilitation therapy using Nintendo Wii.

“Stroke patients in regional or remote areas find it difficult to access rehabilitation services,” said lead researcher Dr Penelope McNulty from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA).

A subject demonstrating Wii therapy.“This project will assess the feasibility of offering high-quality, remotely-monitored rehabilitation where access to therapy is currently restricted or non-existent.”

NeuRA and NBN Co will work together to test the delivery of rehabilitation training to people with stroke-affected hands and arms using the National Broadband Network in their homes.

“Studies at Neuroscience Research Australia have shown that this form of therapy can significantly improve movement after only two weeks,” said Dr McNulty.

Mike Quigley, who started as NBN Co Chief Executive in July last year and is on the NeuRA board, has donated his first year’s salary – $2 million – to fund this project, as well as other projects at NeuRA, including the construction of the Neuroscience Research Precinct.

“This project combines my two great passions in life – medical research, from which I have personally benefitted, and telecommunications. I am a true believer in the ability of fast broadband networks to deliver significant social and economic benefits,” Mr Quigley said.

“This research project is a great example of the improvement in healthcare delivery that will be possible using the speed and coverage of the National Broadband Network,” said Mr Quigley.

“This is particularly important in remote locations and to those who have difficulty travelling to receive care. As our population ages, neurological diseases will be a big cost to the community, and cost-effective, broadband-based health solutions will be of growing importance,” he said

Every year over 60,000 Australians have a stroke, making it a leading cause of disability (National Stroke Foundation). Rehabilitation is the only method to recover movement of stroke-affected limbs.

Each participant will take part in ten one-hour sessions at home over a two-week period. They will be supervised by a therapist in Sydney, who will use the network to receive high quality video images and sensor data to analyse the patient’s movements and provide feedback.

“This generous donation is a vote of confidence in our e-health initiatives, which have the potential to greatly reduce demands on our healthcare system,” said Prof Peter Schofield, CEO of Neuroscience Research Australia.

“With this project, we hope to significantly increase opportunities for recovery for stroke patients across the country. As Australia ages, we believe faster broadband will be of increasing importance in patient care and rehabilitation,” said Prof Schofield.