Stroke patients save the British government money by pretending they’re at the circus.


As part of a plan to simultaneously modernize its services and cut costs, Britain’s National Health Service has announced a test program to use videogames to guide the recovery of stroke patients. 

Since it’s time-consuming and expensive to have patients come into the doctor’s office for physical therapy sessions, the NHS will use an implantable blood pressure monitor in conjunction with a home videogame system to chart patients’ progress as they manage their own physical therapy. This will free up doctors to periodically consult with patients based on the aggregate data about the patients’ movements that the game will store.

The game uses two gyroscopic controllers that look and work similarly to a Wii remote. With one controller in each hand patients will play a series of simple mini-games based around a circus theme. One has players controlling a trapeze artist swinging her arms in synch with the whooshing swing, another has players pretending to juggle bowing pins. During each game, the remotes’ measure the speed and range of movement the player is making and then send a detailed report to doctors.

The idea seems exciting, but it’s also filled with the possibility for confusion and disfunction. The promotional video ends with a woman wanting to get a better score and anyone who has played a Wii game will well know the discrepancy between performing a full gesture that matches what’s onscreen versus tricking the motion sensors into registering half-gestures to get better scores. Likewise, people who tire of the game may well see their performance drop from sheer boredom, which might not have any direct correlation to the recovery process.

There’s no denying videogames can be used in a huge variety of ways, but there’s also no good reason to expect them to be better replacements for on-going medical treatment. But supplementing an expensive form of physical therapy with a videogame proctor is certainly a good way for a government to save money.

[via The Huffington Post]