Background: Tongue pressure is an effective index of swallowing function, and it decreases with aging and disease progression. Previous research has shown beneficial effects of swallowing exercises combined with myofunctional tongue-strengthening therapy on tongue function. Tongue exercises delivered through mobile health (mHealth) technologies have the potential to advance health care in the digital age to be more efficient for people with limited resources, especially older adults. Objective: The purpose of this study is to explore the immediate and long-term maintenance effects of an 8-week home-based mHealth app intervention with biweekly (ie, every 2 weeks) human mediation aimed at improving the swallowing tongue pressure in older adults. Methods: We developed an mHealth app intervention that was used for 8 weeks (3 times/day, 5 days/week, for a total of 120 sessions) by 11 community-dwelling older adults (10 women; mean age 75.7 years) who complained of swallowing difficulties. The app included a swallowing monitoring and intervention protocol with 3 therapy maneuvers: Effortful prolonged swallowing, effortful pitch glide, and effortful tongue rotation. The 8-week intervention was mediated by biweekly face-to-face meetings to monitor each participant's progress and ability to implement the training sessions according to the given protocol. Preintervention and postintervention isometric and swallowing tongue pressures were measured using the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument. We also investigated the maintenance effects of the intervention on swallowing tongue pressure at 12 weeks postintervention. Results: Of the 11 participants, 8 adhered to the home-based 8-week app therapy program with the optimal intervention dosage. At the main trial end point (ie, 8 weeks) of the intervention program, the participants demonstrated a significant increase in swallowing tongue pressure (median 17.5 kPa before the intervention and 26.5 kPa after the intervention; P=.046). However, long-term maintenance effects of the training program on swallowing tongue pressure at 12 weeks postintervention were not observed. Conclusions: Swallowing tongue pressure is known to be closely related to dysphagia symptoms. This is the first study to demonstrate the effectiveness of the combined methods of effortful prolonged swallowing, effortful pitch glide, and effortful tongue rotation using mobile app training accompanied by biweekly human mediation in improving swallowing tongue pressure in older adults. The mHealth app is a promising platform that can be used to deliver effective and convenient therapeutic service to vulnerable older adults. To investigate the therapeutic efficacy with a larger sample size and observe the long-term effects of the intervention program, further studies are warranted.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Thus, this study explores the immediate and long-term maintenance effects of an 8-week home-based mHealth app intervention program with human mediation aimed at improving the swallowing tongue pressure in older adults. We further highlight several clinical issues raised during the intervention program that needed to be addressed. This study was part of an ongoing larger 7-year national grant project entitled “Development and Implementation of Swallowing Evaluation and Intervention Program for Older Adults.”
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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Informatics