“Hand Therapy’ – the exercise prescription app enabling patients to access high quality treatment information anywhere, anytime

Hayley Fay, Specialist occupational therapist in Hand Therapy at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust shares how she observed patients struggling to retain and perform exercises correctly, and subsequently identified the need to explore how to deliver patient information and exercises in a way that ensured success.

Transforming patient resources to a digital format

Hand injuries are common, contributing up to 30% of accident and emergency (A&E) attendances. Hands are our tools; means of expression and a serious hand injury can be life changing. Accessing the right treatment at the right time is key to recovery.

As an occupational therapist working as a hand therapist in the NHS for 20 years, it has been my privilege to support people in their journey to recovery. However, the outdated way we were delivering patient information using paper leaflets consistently lead to people not performing exercises as desired. I could see how this impacted patients’ progress and potential recovery. With digital technology advancing I felt we could do better. Additionally, through patient engagement, we found 85% of patients used a smartphone and most of them preferred exercises in video format.

With the support of CW+ innovation grant I went on to develop “Hand therapy” app, a digital innovation enabling patients to access high-quality exercise videos and educational content on smart phones and tablets. 

A platform designed for both patients and clinicians

The design of the app is perfect for clinicians working in busy clinics, as it is quick to download with no prohibitive setup. Easy to follow videos ensure exercises are performed correctly which is pivotal to successful outcomes. The app aims to empower patients to self-manage their recovery, therefore saving clinician time and allowing them to focus on other aspects of treatment.

Our evaluation of the app found:

  • 100% patients felt confident performing their exercises using the app
  • 100% of therapists agree the app helps patients perform exercises correctly

“Making hand exercises a daily habit was the key to my recovery and the app was really helpful with that. The bite-sized videos enabled hand therapy to be part of a daily routine, not just a hospital appointment.” – Patient user of ‘Hand therapy’ app

“The Hand therapy app is an outstanding resource, with excellent, informative & relevant hand therapy exercises clearly demonstrated such that they can be “prescribed” remotely to patients. The patients can easily refresh their technique, record their activity, and be reminded to do their exercises.” – Clinician user of ‘Hand therapy’ app

A key attribute of the app is that it is free to download making it highly accessible, a great example of how innovation can transform patient care. This year alone we have seen more than 10,000 downloads worldwide, with a notable increase during the pandemic. This clearly demonstrates how the app has become a valuable resource in supporting telemedicine.

Based on user feedback, we have just launched version two that now contains over 135 videos in the catalogue, as well as new features and functionality. The development work has been funded by CW+ our hospital health charity, and although our aim is to keep the app free, we have built a simple donation feature in the app that allows our users to support ongoing development of the app.

The app was also recently the international winner for the 2022 Christina Allegri Innovation in Hand Therapy award and has been featured in the Journal of Hand Therapy in the following two publications:

What’s next?

Through the support of the CW+ and DigitalHealth.London Horizon Fellowship Programme, I have now honed my focus to evaluating and measuring the clinical and socioeconomic impact of the app, as well as looking into designing new digital pathways of care to reduce the number of appointments for patients undergoing standard procedures by utilising the app content to enable self-management.

Hand therapy is a free exercise prescription app designed and developed to enable equitable access to high quality content, as well as ensuring patients confidently perform prescribed exercises to optimise treatment outcomes.

If this app is relevant to your field of practice:

  • Download it: simply search “hand therapy” in Google Play or iOS app store to download the app to your smartphone or tablet  
  • Tell us what you think via the Clinician survey & Mobile application rating scale
  • Donate: we are fundraising to support the apps future development, donate via the app or take a look at our donation page to find out more

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