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Grant provides effective new integrated therapy tool at MDMH

Occupational Therapist Joan Channer works with Alana Horton on the new Bioness Integrated Therapy System at Marcus Daly Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center. Alana’s mother Shyea Bowles said that the new machine could help her daughter quit bumping into things and give her a greater degree of independence. Michael Howell photo.

By Michael Howell

As part of its efforts to reach out to all of Western Montana, the foundation for Community Health, in Missoula, has reached into Ravalli County with a $10,000 grant to the Daly Hospital Foundation for the purchase of a state-of-the-art tool called a Bioness Integrated Therapy System, known as BITS for short.

The new system has a wide range of beneficial uses. It can be used to enhance eye-hand coordination, improve peripheral vision, build cognitive endurance and memory recall, and increase visual search and scanning abilities, to name a few. In all, it offers 24 unique therapy programs and standardized assessments with

customizable features designed to enhance physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy outcomes.

BITS therapy can be used by patients of any age who are experiencing visual field loss, visual-spatial neglect, and visual-vestibular integration problems, rhythmicity, problem solving and cognitive challenges.

Last week, Foundation for Community Health Executive Director Dorcie Dvarishkis and board member Ramona Holt paid a visit to Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center to see how things were going.

They got to meet one of the first to benefit from the new machine, young Alana Horton, and her mother Shylea Bowles. Alana suffers from a visual impairment called visual-spatial neglect in which a part of her visual field does not get properly inspected. During a demonstration last week, Alana performed various tasks on the large touch-screen in front of her. The BITS program was able to discern and highlight the objects on the screen that were being visually neglected. Training sessions can then be devised to address the areas of neglect.

“It will be nice to have her not bumping into things,” said her mother, Shylea. “It’s awesome to have this here,” she added. It is one of only two in the state. The other is in Bozeman.

The therapists at the Rehabilitation Center are excited about the system as well. Physical Therapist and Department Head Pete Dunn said that the system provides an easy way to objectively measure a person’s abilities and then work to improve them.

Dunn estimated that a third of the patients at Marcus Daly could benefit from the use of BITS. Because it is a mobile unit and can be wheeled around, he said, it could be taken right to the bedside of a patient who has suffered a stroke and begin cognitive therapy right away. He said it can be used at the track in the Rehab Center to measure visual reaction times and other performance parameters including automaticity, contrast sensitivity, plus visual and auditory sequencing and memory.

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