Apps in therapy: occupational therapists' use and opinions

Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2017 Nov;12(8):772-779. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2016.1262912. Epub 2016 Dec 16.


To gather information on occupational therapy practitioners' use and opinions of apps, an online survey was distributed to occupational therapy practitioners licensed in the state of Ohio. The survey sought information regarding clinical populations and skill areas for which apps are used, potential barriers to use of apps and preferred apps/app features. OTs working in medical and education-based settings and with clients of all ages responded to the survey. Over half (53%) reported not using apps in therapy, with "not having access to the technology at work" being the leading reason endorsed. Of practitioners who did report using apps, the majority used them with ≤25% of their case load and primarily used tablets to do so. Clinicians indicated that they use apps for a wide variety of reasons, including to promote skill building and to support the therapeutic process. Preferred features included the ability to grade difficulty up/down, multiple uses and accurate feedback. Recommendations from peers were the most commonly reported way respondents found new apps. The results suggest that occupational therapy practitioners employ clinical reasoning when implementing apps in therapy. Possible ways to improve access to apps for therapists who would like to implement them are discussed. Implications for Rehabilitation Many occupational therapy practitioners are using apps with at least a portion of their caseloads. Therapists select apps based on peer recommendations, most commonly selecting those which promote skill building and support the therapeutic process. More therapists might make use of apps if potential barriers were reduced or eliminated, including availability of technology in the clinical practice setting, therapist training and education, therapist input into app development and an enhanced evidence base.

Keywords: Therapy; smart devices; technology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobile Applications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupational Therapists / psychology*
  • Occupational Therapy / methods*
  • Patient Participation
  • Time Factors