SINGAPORE, 26 March 2021 – A stroke happens in an instant but the disability it causes can last for years. Frequent rehabilitation, regular medical appointments and support are essential to help patients regain their independence and quality of life, but the recovery journey can be difficult for patients to navigate.
Last year’s COVID-19 outbreak made it especially challenging as face-to-face appointments at post-stroke clinics, rehabilitation services in hospitals or community and support groups were halted during the circuit breaker and it took months before services were fully operational again.
A study‡ by the NNI-SGH Stroke team on the support needs of stroke survivors and family caregivers during the COVID-19 circuit breaker found that 6 out of 10 of the 83 respondents observed a decline in their level of activity and self-reported depression and anxiety increased.
“The reduction in services and the need to stay home and avoid social contact left many stroke survivors feeling isolated, anxious and depressed. Our stroke team wanted to find a way to connect with our patients, ensure they could continue with their rehabilitation and access advice in the safety of their homes, both during a COVID-19 outbreak and beyond,” said Associate Professor Deidre De Silva, Head and Senior Consultant, Neurology, National Neuroscience Institute (Singapore General Hospital Campus).
The NNI-SGH Stroke Team received a SingHealth Duke-NUS COVID-19 Innovation grant to develop a mobile application to empower stroke survivors to take charge of their recovery and improve their quality of life. The team worked with SingHealth’s Group Marketing Communications Department to develop the stroke app into the cluster’s existing highly popular ‘Health Buddy’ mobile application so the users’ health information could be consolidated in one location.
“We were excited to work with the NNI-SGH Stroke team to build this functionality as we saw both immediate and scalable uses for the services in mind, especially for the customised advisories and regular exercise listings and reminders’, added Ms Kathryn Ng, Deputy Chief Communications Officer, SingHealth (Marcom), whose team worked to design and build the app functionality.
After nine months of development and testing, Stroke Buddy was launched today at the 18th Singapore International Stroke Conference, by Ms Lee Chen Ee, Group Director, Organisational Transformation, SingHealth.
Speaking at the launch, Ms Lee said, “COVID-19 created unprecedented disruption across our healthcare system, resulting in novel challenges. The development of the Stroke Buddy app was sparked by the COVID-19 outbreak, but it is a cost-effective practical resource that can be used during pandemics and in peace-time.”
With Stroke Buddy, survivors and their caregivers can receive personalised information, such as practical advice, medication reminders and exercise videos to support their rehabilitation and help them live and cope better after their stroke. Stroke survivors and caregivers who have tried the app say it is a useful and much-needed resource.
Ms Tan Poh Choo, stroke survivor (7 years) and Vice-President, Singapore National Stroke Association: “There is so much to think about after a stroke it can be overwhelming, especially when survivors and caregivers search for information on the internet. Stroke Buddy is very helpful because it houses all the information and resources in one place and helps filter it, sending relevant information to the user based on their profile. I had a stroke seven years ago and I find the exercise videos useful because they are easy to follow and the mindfulness videos on breathing help me relax.”
Ms Violet Oon, stroke survivor (8 years) and celebrity chef: “This Stroke Buddy is very good, because otherwise I do not have access to all this information – if I search online, I don’t know if the information is correct or not! The medication reminder is useful and the exercise videos are very good for me as otherwise I exercise randomly. I will certainly use this guide and will try to check-in daily.”
Ms Jane Koe, caregiver to husband and stroke survivor (4 years): “The information in the Stroke Buddy is very detailed and will be great for first time stroke survivors as well as their caregivers. There are so many resources and information, I would definitely recommend any one to use this app. The videos on the caring of stroke survivors, in particular on transfers, can be viewed even by experienced caregivers. I regularly transfer my husband from wheelchair to bed and vice versa but watching the video can reinforce what we have been taught and it is like a check list to ensure that we are doing it correctly.”
‡ Doshi, K et al, 2020, Understanding the support needs of stroke survivors and their family caregivers during the COVID-19 Pandemic
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