Why is this research needed?
Around 80% of stroke survivors have problems with tasks that require complex thinking. This could be planning, organising or rearranging actions. These thinking problems can impact a stroke survivor’s ability to do everyday tasks such as going to the supermarket or look after their money. It’s vital that these problems are detected early so stroke survivors and their loved ones can get the support they need to rebuild, cope and adapt to life after stroke.
However, the tests currently used aren’t good enough at detecting thinking problems that impact everyday life as they don’t replicate or measure the skills needed for tasks in the real-world. They are also time-consuming for healthcare professionals to do and their results can be difficult to understand which limits their usability in busy hospitals.
The Oxford Multiple Errands Test (OxMET) is a promising new test that replicates a real-life shopping experience on a computer-tablet to assess a stroke survivor’s ability to do complex thinking tasks. It benefits from being able to be used with stroke survivors with movement and communication problems, and some of the results are easier to understand compared to other tests.
This research is needed to find out if the OxMET test should be used with stroke survivors.
What is this research aiming to do?
The researcher Sam, who you can read about below, has previously tested the OxMET with stroke survivors. This showed that it’s as reliable at detecting complex thinking problems as existing tests. This research is the next step. Sam aims to find out if using the OxMET in the hospital can inform how thinking problems can affect everyday life for stroke survivors once they are home.
For the test to be made available for stroke survivors in hospitals the technology will be made accessible for use on different devices. The ability of clinicians to use the test will also be explored.
Sam said: “This new test could be paramount to stroke survivors and their loved ones that provide care and support by giving an accurate, reliable and relevant understanding of the impact of stroke on their everyday lives. It’s this understanding that can get more people affected by stroke the targeted and effective treatment and support they need to live the best lives they can.”
How will the researcher find out if the test is beneficial for stroke survivors with thinking problems?
66 stroke survivors in the hospital will use the OxMET test to assess their complex thinking skills. Their current abilities for activities of daily living will also be assessed. They will be followed up at home at 6- and 12-months to find out if the OxMET test in hospital can detect thinking problems associated with activities necessary for everyday life. He will compare the new test to one that is currently used, the MET-Home to understand if it’s a better test.
What is the benefit of this research?
This research can lead to better support for stroke survivors and their loved ones. This is in two ways. Firstly, detection of a problem is the first step in understanding a person’s need for support. Only then can professionals, families and the patient work together to treat and adapt to cope with the effect of stroke. Secondly, there is a lack of evidence for effective treatments for complex thinking problems. Researchers need better ways to detect and measure thinking problems to develop much needed new ways to improve support for these problems.
Sam said: “The development of clinical tools, such as the OxMET is a cornerstone of advancing stroke research and care. I’m choosing to focus my research in this area as it's commonly overlooked. This is a major problem as without ensuring reliable and useful tools are used to understand and monitor the impact of stroke on people’s lives, we can’t do the work to develop effective new treatments.
In this fellowship and my career to follow, I aspire to translate research findings to clinical practice in hospitals, community care and even treatments provided in stroke survivors' own homes to bring direct and far-reaching improvements to stroke care.”
Meet the researcher
Sam has a background in psychological research, including stroke research.
At the University of Oxford, he is working with world-leading researchers focusing on improving care for thinking and memory (cognition) after stroke, for example, this group pioneered a stroke-specific cognitive screening test the Oxford Cognitive Screen that is now widely used in standard practice.
Sam has also created a patient and public involvement group where stroke survivors’ input into key decisions around the importance of research questions and the design of our studies.