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Apps for Clinical Practice

Prof. Roelien Bastiaanse
Prof. Roelien Bastiaanse

The Groninger Expertisecentrum voor Taal- en Communicatiestoornissen (GETC) was founded in 2011 to combine the knowledge on language and communication disorders. By doing so, research and education on this area could be optimised and collaborations with industry and health care partners could be found. Professor Roelien Bastiaanse, professor in neurolinguistics, is the driving force being the centre.

Number of digital projects

One of the projects Bastiaanse worked on is WEBLIA, financed by Stichting Afasie Nederland. WEBLIA is a web-based computer programme which generates news texts that correspond to the individual reading level of people with aphasia. Bastiaanse says: “EDIA is a young internet company that has designed an application to make newspaper report accessible to second language education. Students first do a language test and based on their vocabulary the system generates appropriate texts. This is naturally also interesting for people with aphasia. They often have trouble reading newspapers, but they would like to stay informed. In spring 2014, a version has been developed specifically aimed at patients with aphasia. That way they can recent report (no older than 24 hours) on their own level. They can select themes that they find interesting, have the reports read to them and change the font size. A pilot study showed that it positively contributes to the every day life of people with aphasia. A collaboration with Afasienet will secure WEBLIA's future.

Screenshot from the therapy programme ACTIE!
Screenshot from the therapy programme ACTIE!

Other projects of Bastiaanse related to the GETC focus on a new way of testing and treating aphasia. Think of for instance the therapy programme ACTIE!, based on a programme from 1977 (Bastiaanse et al.), which is appropriate for use on computers, tablets and smartphones. Moreover, therapists can now do more with the programme, e.g. provide patients with exercises they can do at home. Bastiaanse is excited about the possibilities: “I recently saw on a conference in America how effective these apps can be, especially for this target group. Doing exercises has become much easier and more fun and is therefore also more effective”.

Relevance and collaboration

Is is very obvious that these projects are socially relevant. Does Bastiaanse feel the same? “Yes, definitely! It would be odd if you do research on aphasia but want to stay distant from the application. I think that I spend about ¾ of my time on scientific research and about ¼ on the utilisation of my knowledge. I feel that it is my duty as a researcher to gain as much knowledge as possible in order to be able to perform better tests and treatments. On top of that, it is a nice bonus that people actually gain something from it. When I talk about my research during lectures, I always get questions about the application of the knowledge, with good reason. Even from an educational perspective, having contacts in the field is important. When you train students to be able to work in the field, they need good materials to work with.” And is that also scientifically relevant? “Building apps on itself obviously is not. But through such a project you can gather a lot of data which you can use for research. It is all connected.”

In order for these project to take off, there is an obvious need for collaboration with external partners. “The most difficult aspect is finding people that can build apps and financing the project. You always have to invest first. Only once you’ve completely finished the project and everything work, then you can think of the return on your investment. But it’s not an easy road. However, the testing itself never leads to problems. I have satisfactorily collaborated with revalidation clinics for many years.”

Future in aphasia studies

The possibilities and need for computer apps will continue to grow. But Bastiaanse is also looking ahead in terms of scientifically sound research. “A problem for aphasia studies has always been the fact that participant groups are too small. It is therefore difficult to demonstrate that therapy is meaningful. However, we are currently in contact with the largest aphasia centre in the world located in Moscow, where they treat 500 aphasia patients a year. We are hopefull that we can set-up a large-scale research project.”

Here you find a short newsitem on the subject:

Last modified:13 June 2019 1.56 p.m.
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