A new system will allow a physiotherapist to set an exercise rehabilitation programme for a stroke patient to conduct in their own home, with the results of their achievements being fed back to the therapist remotely via a computer.
This means that the patient can engage with their exercises more frequently and in their own time and reduce travel to hospital for regular appointments.
The system was developed by the SMART Consortium let by Sheffield Hallam University in partnership with Philips Research Laboratories (Aachen, Germany) and is currently being tested with stroke survivors to ensure it is usable in preparation for clinical trials.
Initial research led by Sheffield Hallam University resulted in a rehabilitation system that used sensors worn on the wrists and arm by the stroke patient, which linked into a computer in the home. The arm exercises were recorded and displayed on a computer or TV screen by a therapist at a remote location, allowing them to assess the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programme without having to be physically present.
Philips has taken the concept one step further by incorporating wireless sensor technology and developing the range of movements within the exercise programme. After assessing the patient, a physiotherapist will set up the initial exercise programme, offering a combination of movements to help the patient recover mobility after a stroke. Therapists will then monitor the patient's progress from the clinic by accessing the feedback from the computer located in the patient's home.
'This link with Philips should enable us to take this exciting piece of work onto the next stage,' said Professor Gail Mountain of Sheffield Hallam University's Health and Social Care Research Centre.
'The system offers the potential for physiotherapists to effectively treat more patients. It requires the expertise of a physiotherapy professional to assess the patient's needs, programme the exercises and to analyse the data to check its effectiveness, but takes away the need for all treatment to be conducted face-to-face, in one-to-one sessions,' explained Dr Richard Willmann, Research Scientist in Medical Signal Processing from Philips Laboratories.
'This system is also good news for patients as it will allow them to schedule their therapy more easily to fit in with their lives, rather than having to meet appointment times with therapists. It will also cut waiting times for treatment.'