A Further Step to Develop Patient-Friendly Implementation Strategies for Virtual Reality–Based Rehabilitation in Patients With Acute Stroke

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Abstract

Background

Virtual reality (VR)–based rehabilitation is gaining attention as a way to promote early mobilization in patients with acute stroke. However, given the motor weakness and cognitive impairment associated with acute stroke, implementation strategies for overcoming patient-perceived difficulty need to be developed to enhance their motivation for training.

Objective

The purpose of this study was to explore patient-perceived difficulty and enjoyment during VR-based rehabilitation and the factors affecting those experiences.

Design

An exploratory mixed-method design was used in this study.

Methods

Eight individuals with acute stroke participated in 2 training modes of VR-based rehabilitation (ie, workout and game modes) 20 to 30 minutes per day for 5 to 8 sessions. A visual analog scale was used to assess patient-perceived difficulty and enjoyment at every session. Then semistructured interviews were conducted to explore the factors affecting those experiences.

Results

Levels of difficulty and enjoyment varied depending on the training mode and participants' phases of recovery. Five major factors were identified as affecting those varied experiences: (1) ease of following the directions, (2) experience of pain, (3) scores achieved, (4) novelty and immediate feedback, and (5) self-perceived effectiveness.

Conclusions

Levels of difficulty and enjoyment during VR-based rehabilitation differed depending on the phases of recovery and training mode. Therefore, graded implementation strategies for VR-based rehabilitation are necessary for overcoming patient-perceived difficulty and enhancing enjoyment. Ease of following the directions might be best considered in the very early stage, whereas multisensory feedback may be more necessary in the later stage. Health professionals also should find a way for patients to avoid pain during training. Feedback, such as knowledge of results and performance, should be used appropriately.

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