At Strokemark, we’re proud that we can help stroke survivors get the most out of their recovery. We do our research to find the best possible exercises to help patients improve their walking, arm strength, flexibility, and cognition. Then we develop these exercises into full plans that patients can do at home. But how can we be so confident that our program works? That part, we cannot do alone. There is a team of stroke survivors that tests our courses before we offer them to others.
Our test group helps us along the way
Once we develop a course, we need to see if it’s effective. That’s where our test group comes in. We recruited stroke survivors to try our program and help us find out what works. Every Saturday at 9 am, the patients faithfully show up for class. During our sessions, we introduce a new challenge, and our testers try it. At this point, we start learning from them.
The science behind the Strokemark method is important
First, we explain the science behind an exercise. We answer the questions of why and how a challenge works. Our patients have told us that they like this! They want to know why they are doing something, and they want to understand how an exercise can help them. Some patients told us that having this knowledge helps them to stick with the program and remain patient for the results. Science tells us that our bodies need variation, time to adapt, and a chance to rest. Understanding this helps people realize that each day in our program builds upon the last and that it’s best to follow our outline because you can’t rush progress.
What if something is too hard or too easy?
Through working with patients, we can learn where obstacles might arise. For example, if we introduce something new, we can see at what point it’s difficult and in which way we can modify the exercise so that it’s still effective. Varying the number of repetitions that we ask of someone or the intensity of the training can make each exercise accessible at any level.
Seeing how helpful it was to be able to tailor a challenge according to patient needs, we built this as a function into our app. After each exercise, we ask how difficult a challenge was and if it caused any pain. If a patient reports that the task was easy and that they didn’t experience any discomfort, then we can increase the duration and intensity. If it was too hard or they suffered, we can tone the challenge down a little until it’s at the appropriate level.
Asking our group what they think
Not only do we learn what we need to change and how to tailor our program, but we also find out what else we should include. Several of our patients reported pretty amazing improvements in their walking abilities. Some went from using a wheelchair to only needing a cane. And some can even walk 9 times further a day than they could when they first started. We’re happy with these kinds of results, but are our patients? Sure, they feel good about improvements like this, but they aren’t satisfied enough to say that they’re done. Instead, they were motivated by these results and told us they wanted to continue to increase their walking pace and to work more on regaining balance. And that’s why we developed our Walking Course 2.0.
We had a similar thing happen with our first Arm and Hand Course Our patients saw a 23% improvement in their hand and arm strength from our program. Are they satisfied and willing to stop there? Pleased, yes. Willing to stop? No. Needless to say, our Arm and Hand Course 2.0 is in the works.
Developing a monitoring system
In addition to our patients helping us with our courses, they also help us with learning the best way to monitor. This August, we lent our participants a package that we organized with a health monitoring company. These packages included a fitness tracker, a blood pressure monitor, and a Bluetooth hub that connects the devices to the internet. We helped them set these up at home with their routers. We hit some road bumps due to the different systems that people had at home, but we learned a lot. That’s why we collected these kits after a few weeks and are reprogramming the equipment. We’ll try again because we also found out that this type of monitoring helps us find out if the objectives of the exercises were met. We can look at the results and see how activity increased per day and see if blood pressure changed from that activity. That’s why the patients who were able to use it found it meaningful and motivating.
Seeing is believing
To help others understand how Strokemark improves the quality of life of stroke survivors, we decided to film a video. And what better way to bring this message across than to hear from our patients. Three of our participants opened their homes and shared their experiences with us. These interviews are invaluable in conveying how our program affects lives. They show the real impact by telling the stories of how we’re changing lives.
The video work didn’t just end there, however. Our patients told us that if we explain an exercise in our app, we should have a video demonstrating how to perform it. And it shouldn’t feature some super sporty person in spandex showing perfect form. Instead, it should feature someone who experienced a stroke. Great idea, and no problem since our patients are eager to support us! We set up our own studio in our offices where we can shoot patients doing the exercises. We have already filmed three of our testers and have others lined up — anything to help other survivors!
Our test group is part of our team
We set out to help a group of patients, and we have gotten so much more in return. We never expected these patients to express such an interest in spreading our message. It has been amazing to experience this kind of support and enthusiasm. Our patients show a continued interest in reaching out, which has planted the seed to our mentoring program. Interested members of our test group will be trained to support and guide others enrolled in our program. After all, their first-hand experience is and will continue to be our most valuable resource.
Our test group has told us again and again how much we have done for them and that they could not have achieved what they have without us. We feel the same way about them. That’s why we’re happy to call them part of our team!