Tech Offers Web of Support for Stroke Survivors

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. I like to follow the technological advancements for stroke prevention and treatment — and the companies making them — because I have been a stroke survivor for nine years. We don’t realize it on a daily basis, but things advance as quickly in the medical and health industries as in wireless and communications. If I had my stroke today rather than nine years ago, there would be much more help at my fingertips.

My stroke occurred in 2004. As advanced as the medical community had become by then, it was very distant from where it is today. Doctors struggled with too many questions and offered me very few answers. They simply didn’t know. Plus, they were not counselors, so they weren’t able to help me understand my situation. Things are different now.

The wireless and telecom world has changed, too. Back then, Apple hadn’t come out with the iPhone, and Google hadn’t introduced Android. A cellphone was just a cellphone — and there were a lot of Baby Bells that hadn’t yet merged.

The Smartphone Revolution

Unfortunately, strokes happen all the time. Since having mine, I have learned of many other survivors among people I already knew. How many do you know? Maybe quite a few. I have learned of many neighbors, friends, and business associates affected by strokes — and recovery is a long-term process, taking years.

Every few years, we see breakthroughs in the medical and health community, as well as in the wireless and telecom industry. Suddenly, these two worlds are working together to create new apps and solutions for stroke survivors. Things are getting exciting.

For example, in 2004, the year I had my stroke, the smartphone revolution had not yet begun. BlackBerry, Nokia, and Palm were the smartphone leaders. There were no iPhones, and there were no phones running Android. There was no app explosion yet. At that time, there were only a few hundred apps to choose from, and none of them addressed stroke prevention or recovery.

Then things quickly started to change. Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007, and Google unleashed Android shortly after that. The number of apps started to grow, but in the early years, they were mostly about games. It would be a few years before anything of medical or health value was created.

Today, smartphones rule the world. More than 50 percent of us have one. There are nearly a million apps in the iTunes App Store and in Google Play. We’ve grown past the initial stage emphasizing games and are seeing apps with serious value propositions. There is a growing variety of healthcare-related apps, and we are still just in the very early years.

Apps for That

I am currently writing my second book. “Stroke Recovery Stories” is filled with stories from stroke survivors to offer encouragement to others. So, if you have recovered from a stroke or know someone who has, and if you would like to help, I hope you will get in touch with me and contribute your story to this new book.

We are just in the early stages of a technology revolution that will help stroke survivors. Visit the iTunes App Store or Google Play and take a look. Believe it or not, today, there are stroke apps. Yes, that’s right, there’s an app for that — several of them, as a matter of fact.

Sorting through all these “stroke” apps is key at this early stage. Listed under “stroke” are stroke recovery apps — but there are also golfing apps and other unrelated apps with the word “stroke” in their titles or descriptions.

One good app from the American Heart Association is Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T. It is available at the iTunes App Store.

E-Books and More

The e-book craze is new and a big help as well. Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and other e-readers make it easy to shop, find what you are looking for, and download and read a book immediately without leaving home. In the world before e-readers, if we wanted a book immediately, we had to go to a bookstore, but they didn’t carry a deep selection.

Buying books online is a whole new world. There is a huge selection of existing e-books about strokes, and there are new ones being published all the time.

Walgreens is an example of a drugstore stepping in to improve healthcare as well. The shift from retail-only to healthcare consultant is growing rapidly. Before long, when you visit your local drugstore, you’ll likely find a doctor’s office right next to the pharmacy counter.

Smartphones and tablet computers are starting to help doctors and neurologists with stroke assessment. Using technology like Apple’s FaceTime for the iPhone, which is like a portable video conference app, a doctor can visit with a patient in rural or remote locations. This improves the chances for early diagnosis and treatment. Doctors even use medical apps to review brain scans of stroke patients.

Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center is using technology to help stroke survivors walk again — one more example of the plethora of tools that are suddenly appearing.

Community Support

There are other new ways to bring the stroke community together, like stroke walks in different communities. This is important for a patient’s psychological well-being — it lets survivors know they are not alone. Recovering from a stroke can be very isolating and lonely.

When I had my stroke, this community effort didn’t exist. It was frightening. My wife and I were alone, and we didn’t know what to expect. It remained that way for many painful years.

Today, thanks to all the new technology, education, and medical treatments — and all the community support — things are different.

We are just beginning to see how the lives of stroke survivors can be improved, and we are still in the very early days of this revolution. Expect more from technology and the community to keep improving the lives of survivors.

I will occasionally write about exciting new ideas and technologies in this area. Remember to send me your encouraging thoughts and stories about your stroke recovery so I can include them in my new book. Let’s help new stroke survivors see that they will eventually get better and stronger. They just have to work at it every day.

Nine years ago, we thought we knew quite a bit about the brain and strokes. However, compared with today, we were still in the Stone Age. Today, we know much more. Just what will we know tomorrow?

Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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