A touchscreen device is helping patients at the Glenrose Hospital in Edmonton recover and regain mobility through video games.

The device called the ReTouch is an adjustable touchscreen table that incorporates sensors into video games.

The specialized gaming software was designed to help anyone requiring upper limb motor therapy, including stroke, brain injury and surgical patients.

The device has been a game changer for patients at the Glenrose.

Wayne Royer 2

Glenrose patient Wayne Royer uses games on the ReTouch to rehabilitate a shoulder injury. (Rick Bremness/CBC News)

Edmonton resident Wayne Royer suffered severe shoulder damage after a tree fell on him.

“A lot of the stuff you gotta reach really high to get at it.” Royer said. “So of course I had to strengthen up the muscles in the shoulder, and the ligaments and all that.

“It’s just made the arm so much stronger and so much more mobile.”

Royer said he has almost 50% more mobility in his arm than before he started playing.

The ReTouch updates a prototype created in a partnership between the Glenrose and the University of Alberta in 2010.

While the original was successful, it was limited to a stationary horizontal screen, so a decision was make it adjustable.

“We found that we still really needed that vertical movement and that ability to go from horizontal to vertical, to progress the patients even better.” said Quentin Ranson, a rehabilitation leader at the Glenrose.

“So we talked to the NAIT students about designing some games that force the clients into those motions, but make it fun and immersive.”

Games adjust as patient progresses

A variety of games can be played by patients from flying airplanes to popping bubbles.

The games track a patient's progress and also adjust to different angles and levels of difficulty as arm strength increases, a change from typical exercises like stacking cones.

“A patient who maybe I would have stand at a table doing some cones or wiping activities, they tell me after five minutes they are exhausted,” said Ranson.

“I have them standing at a table playing Smash Derby or Tap-it game for 15, 18 or 19 minutes, sweat pouring down their faces. When I say to them, ‘Joe do you realize you’ve been doing this for 15 minutes?’ They’re shocked, that they were doing it that long, because they are immersed in the game.”

Local company Rehabtronics discovered ReTouch at the annual Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Reverse Trade Show, where the hospital presents the challenges staffers face with rehab patients.  

They were so impressed with the product they’ve teamed up with the Glenrose to market the device globally as the Rehabtronics ReTouch.

As for Wayne Royer, he’s excited for others to see the benefits of this device.

“It’s a competitive thing, You’re not gonna let any machine beat you, you know?" he said. “You’re gonna do whatever it takes to beat that machine, even if it means going over what you consider the pain limit."

Right now the Glenrose has six Retouch devices, but hope to add more in the future.