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Student Project Aims to Make CF Physiotherapy a Game

A video game aimed at encouraging young cystic fibrosis (CF) patients to do their breathing exercises is being tested at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and other sites across the UK

Konglomerate Games, a company comprised of fourth-year students from Abertay University in Scotland, developed the project using £10,000 ($11,600) in funding from the Unloc Enterprise Challenge, a Europe-wide online entrepreneurship competition for individuals ages 16 to 25.

The game is crafted around the Project Fizzyo device, a bluetooth sensor that connects to physiotherapy tools patients use to help clear airways.

Removing mucus is very important to prevent airway infections in people with CF, and to make it easier for them to breathe. Archipelayo turns the routine, which can be uncomfortable, burdensome, and protracted, into a series of mini-games.

Tailored to each patient’s exercises and treatment stage, the game uses analytics to gauge individuals’ therapy adherence, and is designed to help impede CF progression by encouraging proper physiotherapy technique.

“Imagine spending hours of your day, every day, battling with your teenage kids to do their physiotherapy,” Vicky Coxhead, mother of a CF patient, says on a Konglomerate webpage. “While others play video games, you are telling yours, ‘No, you can’t go game with your friends, you have to come and do your physio.’ For 15 years.”

The game uses a sensor attached onto the airway clearance technique (ACT) device — this study uses the Acapella tool — that connects wirelessly to a tablet. The device turns the user’s breathing into game controls, and will also track and save patient data for physicians to monitor.

A player puts the device in his or her mouth, then inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth. After repeating this eight to 10 times, the user will cough, or “huff,” to expel mucus. Following some relaxed breathing, the process is repeated for 10 to 20 minutes.

During the study, which uses a design called interrupted time series, the game is alternately introduced and removed in order to evaluate its effects on ACT adherence and clinical outcomes. A data scientist will review and assess trial data.

Jamie Bankhead, CEO of Konglomerate Games, said early testing results are positive.

“Our data tells us that the average usage time for a player is 20 minutes, and that is fantastic,” Bankhead said in a press release. “Eighty percent of the breaths they are taking are deemed to be good quality, which is great news. This suggests that not only is the fun there, but the medical benefit is there, too.”

About 150 youths are participating in the clinical testing, set to end in November.

“The response from the children has been excellent,” said Emma Raywood of the University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.”We’ve had feedback that the games are enjoyable, and that they have made the exercises feel quicker. We’ve been told it’s helped them to feel they are doing their exercises in a more effective way, so we’re really pleased at how this has gone.”

Konglomerate focuses on games with medical applications. It was established after the students’ third-year professional project, when clients Project Fizzyo, University College London, and Microsoft asked the company to produce a game to help youths with CF adhere to physiotherapy treatment.

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