A Telehealth System Incorporating a Serious Game Intervention to Aid Occupational Therapists in Identifying and Treating Children With Difficulty Crossing the Body's Midline: Key Informant Interviews Among Occupational Therapists

JMIR Serious Games. 2021 Nov 1;9(4):e27761. doi: 10.2196/27761.


Background: The midline is an imaginary line that isolates the left and right parts of the body. Crossing the midline infers that a body part (eg, hand or foot) can spontaneously move over to the opposite side of the body to perform an action. A child who has difficulty crossing the midline can physically perform actions that cross the center of the body; however, they do not intuitively cross the midline when challenged with a task that requires this movement, as their perceptual components prevent them from engaging on the contralateral side. This requires treatment from an occupational therapist. Owing to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, access to therapeutic sessions was not possible or reduced, putting the responsibility for treatment on caretakers at home. Caretakers do not have the knowledge and skills to provide treatment, and occupational therapists do not receive adequate feedback from caretakers on the child's progress.

Objective: The first objective is to adapt a simple serious game, or applied game, into a telehealth solution. Children will play the game at home under the supervision of a caretaker, and the results will be stored on the web. Occupational therapists can monitor progress via a web-based dashboard, receive additional valuable feedback about the child's behavior during treatment, and easily adapt the game to target specific needs. The second objective is to evaluate whether the implemented telehealth solution is feasible as a treatment option for midline crossing difficulties and thus fit for purpose.

Methods: To meet the first objective, engineering and game development stakeholders formed a team with an occupational therapist, and through a collaborative design process combined with an agile programming approach, a telehealth solution was designed to assist remote monitoring of the serious gameplay. For the second objective, 6 different occupational therapists were introduced to the game, had the opportunity to play the game, and then provided feedback regarding the feasibility, benefits, and applicability of the system during structured interviews.

Results: A telehealth system was designed aimed to address this problem. All results are saved on the web and accessed by occupational therapists via a dashboard. In addition, observed behavioral information is also saved. During the interviews, occupational therapists indicated that the dashboard would support their treatment plan and was indeed a feasible solution.

Conclusions: The feedback from the occupational therapists for this telehealth solution suggests a feasible method to treat midline crossing problems remotely. The therapists commented on the convenience of integrating both assessment and treatment into the same application, as it assists them when grading a child. The therapists collectively agreed that the quantitative aspect the serious game creates by providing measurable and standardized data proves advantageous when compared with traditional methods of assessment and treatment.

Keywords: input device; midline crossing; occupational therapy; serious games; telehealth.