The new NeuRA iconFES app for Apple iPads
By Yasmin Noone
The independent research institute, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), has officially moved into the world of tablet technology with the release of its first ever Apple app.
The recently launced NeuRA iconFES app is a falls fear and risk assessment application for Apple iPads, designed specifically for clinicians and General Practitioners (GPs) who work with older populations.
It uses pictures to gauge the level of concern an older person has about falling during different daily situations and aims to reliably assess an older person’s fear and risk of falling.
The app also enables the clinician or GP to share the falls fear and risk results with a patient immediately, and then devise evidence-based risk reduction strategies that the older person can use.
Lead NeuRA researcher behind the app, Dr Kim Delbaere, stressed that as a person’s fear of falling is linked to their actual risk of falling, it is essential that clinicians and GPs have a readily accessible tool which determines both.
“iconFES records accurate data essential for assessing fall risk and creating fall prevention strategies, and trials also indicate that people find the app both simple and fun,” said Dr Delbaere.
“We hope that access to a quick and easy app like iconFES means that more GPs and clinicians will regularly assess fear of falling in older patients.”
How the app came to be
The app is based on NeuRA’s paper-based ‘fear of falling’ scale, which was developed in 2007 after testing 250 older people’s reactions to it.
Used to assess a person’s fear of falling using different scenarios that are considered ‘scary’, the scale allows clinicians and GPs to determine what an older person’s level of fear is.
Dr Delbaere said although there are many instruments available to measure fear of falling in older adults, the NeuRA scale was the first tool to use pictures to gauge the level of concern people have about falling during different daily situations.
For example, the clinician or GP might use the pictures to determine that the older person is actually afraid of falling when they are cleaning their roof gutters and in their shower.
But as a fear of falling from a height is normal, the medical professional might concentrate on suggesting strategies an older person can employ to reduce their fear and risk of falling in the shower.
However, Dr Delbare explained, the paper-based scale was not implemented as widely as NeuRA first hoped. So the institute decided that an Apple app was the only real way, in 2012, to disseminate the research and ensure its scale would be used widely.
“We do all this research and it gets published in high quality medical research journals, which some clinicians use and read but if our research is available on an app then it is available to everyone,” said Dr Delbaere.
“So it was obvious to us to make the scale into an app, so there would be no issues with users having to download [the scale and the pictures] and print them off.
“…And for older people, it’s a really fun scale to use and they quite enjoy it.”
The app is available via the Apple iTunes website.
NeuRA said it planned to also release a series of apps that will measure other falls factors, like a person’s response time, balance and cognitive performance.