CMU Researchers Bring Patient Rehabilitation into the Home


Researchers at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant have designed a video-game-like tool that delivers rehabilitation services to patients in their homes.

“People who live in rural areas or depend on others for transportation may not have the option of going into a clinic,” says Rick Backs, director of CMU’s Driving Evaluation, Education, and Research Center. “Our system eliminates this issue by bringing rehabilitation right to their homes.”

Backs says health care professionals can use the portable simulation tool, called the Driving Assessment and Training Suite, to determine a patient's visual cognitive function in their clinics, and then use the results to create scenarios tailored to the patient's problem areas.

From there, the patient is sent home to practice the prescribed rehabilitation scenarios.

Based on the simulator data received remotely from the patient, clinicians can adjust the difficulty of tasks as needed to help with the progression of rehabilitation.

“We call it 'telerehabilitation' because the patients can take the small-scale simulator home and do their training there,” says Backs, who developed the tool with colleague Nick Cassavaugh. “This essentially means clinics don't have to spend $80,000 on large simulators, and they can enable the treatment to happen remotely.”

CMU’s faculty has been collaborating with Cattolica University in Milan, Italy, on further development of the system. The two universities are working on a joint study, which will involve data collection in Italy on younger, middle-aged, and older drivers.