Mobile health helps aphasia patients get longterm care

By Jonah Comstock
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The Lingraphica MiniTalk

For many telemedicine offerings, part of the problem that the technology helps solve is distance by connecting providers and patients even if they are miles apart. Telestroke diagnostic consultation between physicians has long been an established telehealth practice. For some of the effects of a stroke, however, it's not so much distance or speediness that is an issue. It's that the structure isn't in place to help patients maintain access to a longterm treatment.

A stroke patient might receive a few days of acute care and a few weeks of therapy, but for some stroke patients who end up with aphasia, the loss of language can stick with them for the rest of their life. That's where Lingraphica, a 23-year-old aphasia rehabilitation company that presented this week at the American Telehealth Association (ATA) annual meeting in Austin, Texas, comes in.

"What you need is a lifetime of inexpensive rehab," said Lingraphica CEO Andrew Gomory. "What you get is a few weeks of expensive therapy."

Lingraphica's approach is different from the current standard of care since, among other things, it uses a combination of apps and software offerings to support aphasia patients. Devices like the AllTalk allow patients who can't speak to communicate with friends and family depending on what speech abilities they still have. They can type and have the device speak for them, or choose their words from a database of pictures. The company has also begun offering a suite of apps for consumer devices with the same function.

Lingraphica iPhone appLingraphica's devices have Skype built in so aphasia patients can stay in touch with friends and family far away, too. Other apps from Lingraphica provide or enhance ongoing speech therapy, providing videos of oral and tongue exercises or helping the user to work on affected reading or speaking skills.

At ATA, Goromy demoed a web platform the company uses to deliver one-on-one speech therapy over the internet for a monthly fee. The system incorporates video communication, but also screen-sharing and remote control so the therapist and patient can work together with software that presents therapeutic exercises and spelling games. The therapist can assign homework for the other six days of the week and can track the patient's progress on it.

Goromy said that Lingraphica's technology also allows the company to collect aggregated data about what works best in speech therapy.

"We capture every keystroke, every touch the user makes, and we get semantic data, to know if they answer right or wrong," he said. "It allows us to get an understanding of what is effective so we can push speech therapy into a more data-driven practice."

And, Goromy said, the company believes speech recognition technology has finally advanced to the point where it could be helpful in the treatment of apahasia, allowing for the creation of a much more effective therapy app. In addition, Lingraphica wants to create an online community of aphasia patients -- a more difficult challenge than most online patient communities because the condition takes away people's language and communication skills.

"These are folks who are not tech savvy. They know what they want to say but they can't say it," Goromy said. "This is a very frustrated group. Their main job after a stroke is to put their lives back together, but they can't talk."