New technology adds element of fun to Dubuque rehab facility - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New technology adds element of fun to Dubuque rehabilitation facility

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Relatively new technology most commonly found in gaming systems such as the XBOX Kinect is making its way to rehabilitation centers nationwide.

Interacting with a virtual environment, patients at ManorCare in Dubuque can now combine therapy with brain-stimulating fun.

The system is called OmniVR, for Virtual Rehabilitation, and while it doesn't replace traditional therapy, it does add a new flair.

Janet Timmerman is a patient at ManorCare in Dubuque. On Wednesday, she used the OmniVR as part of her post-hip surgery rehabilitation.

"You have to watch what's on the screen and have you to learn to use your joints and your muscles and your stance and your balance when you're moving, and it's really good," she said.

Perched above OmniVR's large screen, a special camera sensed Timmerman's movements during a therapeutic game, and a character on the screen moved according to her motions.

"It's fun when you're doing it," Timmerman said. "Some of it is really catchy. You really got to keep your eyes moving."

Becky Schulting is a physical therapy assistant at ManorCare.

"It's almost like we're playing a game but we're still exercising," Schulting said of using OmniVR with patients.

She said the system has exercises to aid in physical therapy, occupational therapy and even speech therapy, but it's not replacement for classic exercises.

"We'll do all the traditional exercises for the specific, you know, hips or knees or a stroke recovery, something like that," she explained. "This is just something we can do to have them do more therapy without them actually realize that they're doing therapy."

ManorCare in Dubuque has had the system since late 2012 and uses it for patient therapy on a daily basis.

"They don't have to be able to maneuver a joystick, they don't have to be able to do anything with the keyboard," Schulting said. "Anything with the computer, we take care of doing all that."

The machine is able to produce instant statistics after a patient plays an interactive game. Those can help inform a primary care provider as the patient continues the rehabilitation process.

The OmniVR is specially designed for aging adult. However, like video game systems for younger people, the OmniVR allows the user to adjust difficulty level, so it can accommodate patients wherever they are in the rehabilitation process. The system can aid in the rehab of everything from falls and strokes to arthritis and wheelchair mobility.

OmniVR, created in 2010, is in facilities throughout the nation.

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