Smartphones as assistive technology following traumatic brain injury: A preliminary study of what helps and what hinders

Dana Wong, Kelly Sinclair, Elizabeth Seabrook, Adam McKay, Jennie Ponsford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Smartphones have great potential as a convenient, multifunction tool to support cognition and independence following traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, there has been limited investigation of their helpful and less helpful aspects for people with TBI. We aimed to investigate patterns of smartphone use amongst individuals with TBI, identify potential barriers to use, and examine the relationships between smartphone use and daily functioning. Method: Twenty-nine participants with TBI and 33 non-injured participants completed the Smartphone Survey, and measures of subjective and objective cognitive functioning, mood, and community integration. Results: Smartphone use was equally common in both groups, and patterns of app use were similar. More participants with TBI than the comparison group listed using their smartphone as a memory aid as its main benefit. Difficulty in learning how to use the smartphone was identified by participants with TBI, however only 10% had been shown how to use it by a clinician. Those with poorer subjective cognitive function used memory/organisational apps more frequently; and higher communication app use with better social integration, in participants with TBI. Conclusions: These findings suggest that smartphones have potential in improving independence following TBI, but receiving support in using them is vital.Implications for Rehabilitation Smartphones are accessible, acceptable, convenient devices for most individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI), and are perceived as a useful memory and organizational aid as well as having multiple other helpful functions.Use of communication apps such as text messages and social media is associated with better social and community integration in people with TBI. Direct instruction on how to use smartphone apps is more important for people with TBI than for non-injured individuals. Developers of apps designed for this population should prioritize ease of app use, large displays, and availability of technical support, while maintaining an engaging design and interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2387-2394
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • apps
  • Cognitive rehabilitation
  • memory aids
  • smartphones
  • traumatic brain injury

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