Technology 'clicks' with patients

July 5, 2011

Kimberly Biller (right), Mercy Health Center

Speech and Language Pathologist, uses

the iPad with patient Adrian Carpenter to

improve his communication skills.

Continually the benefits of technology are changing the course of health care.  From robotic surgery and electronic health records to lighter, more durable plastics, patients are reaping the rewards of scientific and technological advancements. 

But even the common iPad can be a life-changing tool for a patient who has difficulty communicating.

“For several months, I have been using the iPad for speech therapy patients,” said Kimberly Biller, Mercy Health Center’s Speech and Language Pathologist.  “It is not intended to replace speech therapy, but to enhance it and foster engagement so therapy is more productive.”

For example, if a patient has suffered a speech deficit due to a stroke, iPad applications can project a voice to ask questions or respond using a word bank to build sentences.  A sign language application is also available.

“This opens a new world of possibilities for someone who has vocal limitations,” Biller added.  “With this type of technology, the opportunities are endless.  New applications are developed regularly and are simple to download to the iPad.”

“Another great feature about this tool is its size,” Biller said.  “It is compact and portable – easy for the patient to take to a restaurant, shopping or appointments.  It’s also convenient for the therapist to transport from patient to patient especially in a home care setting.  All the applications are at my fingertips versus carrying bags of equipment to meet every patient’s needs.”

Sometimes keeping the attention of younger patients can be challenging.

“Pediatric patients love this tool because it interactive,” shared Biller.  “By simply touching a finger on the screen, one can create the sound of running a hand through a pool of water and then watching the fish scatter.  It opens the door to dialogue that typically would not happen by pointing to a flat image.”

The positive reinforcement and encouragement a therapist gives is invaluable.  Most of the iPad applications offer the patient positive feedback too.  This helps keep patients of all ages engaged for longer periods of time and helps to reduce frustration. 

“The iPad’s multi-sensory system uses a patient’s vision, hearing, touch and motor control (or coordination) to operate the tool,” Biller stated.  “When utilized with the right patient, their rehabilitation experience can be greatly impacted.”

Originally Biller borrowed an iPad from the SKIL Resource Center in Parsons, KS to test its utilization.  The tool was so well received by patients that Mercy Rehabilitation Services purchased an iPad for permanent use. 

“The upfront cost may be a little more expensive than traditional equipment, but upgrades and maintenance are far more reasonable,” said Eric Baldonado, Mercy Director of Rehabilitation Services.  “More importantly, it’s effective.”

To learn more about Mercy’s Speech Therapy, contact Kimberly Biller at 620-223-8415.

Mercy – Sisters of Mercy Health System – is the eighth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and includes 28 hospitals, 36,000 co-workers and more than 200 facilities and 1,300 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. 

Media Contacts

Tina Rockhold
Fort Scott, Columbus
Phone: 620-223-8094