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Arkansas Launches Statewide mHealth Program for Concussion Education

Arkansas state officials have launched an mHealth program in every public school that uses a VR platform to educate student athletes on the causes and effects of a concussion.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Arkansas officials are launching a statewide effort on an mHealth platform to educate high school athletes on the effects of concussions.

The state is partnering with TeachAids, a Stanford-backed non-profit, to launch CrashCourse in every state high school. The VR-based program teaches high school-aged athletes on the causes and effects of a concussion.

“Arkansas is setting a precedent for the rest of the nation in providing cutting-edge VR education to its students,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a Dec. 1 press release. “Through our unique partnership with TeachAids, this groundbreaking concussion education experience will empower young people to solve real-world problems in our increasingly technology-driven society.”

With connected health platforms like CrashCourse, providers are aiming to create VR and AR platforms that enable adolescents to witness the effects of a concussion, rather than having it explained to them by a trainer, doctor or nurse.

The program’s launch follows a Facebook-sponsored VR initiative throughout the state, and includes as partners the Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Activities Association. Through the partnership, every high school in Arkansas was eligible to receive at least one full Oculus Rift-based virtual reality system including a VR ready computer and Rift accessories.

State officials, healthcare providers and even professional sports teams have joined the effort to improve concussion education at the youth-league and high school level, where three out of every five concussions go unreported.

mHealth and telehealth have figured significantly in those projects, ranging from VR programs and mHealth apps that help those suffering from a concussion to understand their condition to telehealth robots and decision support tool that aid coaches, trainers and healthcare providers in identifying and treating concussions.

A different digital health program targeting teens and concussions was launched this past year at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Researchers at the two health systems have partnered with California-based Institute for the Future to study the effectiveness of an mHealth app called SuperBetter, which uses social gaming techniques to help youths 13-18 years old deal with the after-effects of a concussion, which often include emotional issues.

“Pairing the social, mobile app SuperBetter with traditional medical care appears to improve outcomes and optimism for youth with unresolved concussion symptoms,” Dr. Kelsey Logan, director of the division of sports medicine at Cincinnati Children's, said in a press release.

Roughly a year ago, several experts posted an opinion piece posted this month in JMIR mHealth and uHealth that pointed out that adolescents process information from digital health and social media channels differently than adults, so programs targeted for their use have to be mapped out carefully.

“The use of personal and widely available technology-based approaches (in particular text-messaging, mobile apps, and mobile social media) to improve adherence behavior and other health outcomes in adolescents has shown overall acceptability and feasibility, with modest evidence for efficacy,” wrote lead author Sherif M. Badawy, MD, MS, of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “Nevertheless, the long-term health benefits, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of patient engagement through technology-based approaches remain unclear. Additionally, text messaging delivery methods often lack innovative features targeted to adolescents.”

 “Furthermore, methods to quantify patient fatigue, which is assumed to occur among adults with frequent text messaging, and the sustainability of patient engagement may apply differently to adolescents, representing a challenge for researchers,” they added. “Therefore, while the evidence to date is encouraging and promising, further study of technology-based interventions for adolescent self-management and medication adherence, with rigorous study designs and across a wide range of CHCs, are needed.”

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