Could resorting to rehabilitation clinics be less of a necessity in the near future? Whilst these clinics effectively help patients to face post-stroke everyday life, stakeholders tend to agree that a better understanding of how these people function in the absence of medical support could lead to more effective rehabilitation at a lower cost.
This is what Bart Klaassen, PhD student at the University of Twente, and and a large team of researchers from across Europe have been working on under the INTERACTION project. Together they developed and validated an unobtrusive and modular system for monitoring daily life activities and for training motor function in stroke subjects, in the shape of a multi-sensor-equipped suit.
This project is presented by Klaassen and his team as a world first. ‘There has long been a great need for systems like this, but the technology simply was not ready,’ he says. ‘That is now changing rapidly, thanks to rapid developments in the fields of battery technology, wearables, smart e-textiles and big data analysis.’
The INTERACTION suit has been extensively tested on patients over a period of three months, during which they were asked to wear it under their regular clothes. The data was then transmitted, stored and processed thanks to a portable transmitter that can relay all of the information gathered through the internet to data processing servers at the University of Twente. The 41 sensors included in the suit monitor a large number of body segments, providing information on muscle strength, stretch and force.
‘We have been able to demonstrate that all the information is transmitted successfully, that this process is very efficient, and much more besides,’ Klaassen enthuses. ‘We have succeeded in modelling all of the relevant movements, and in cleaning up the data that is relevant for the therapist by filtering out the rest. Our project has delivered new techniques and methods that can be used to monitor patients at home for extended periods of time, and to identify any differences with structured clinical measurements. We are currently engaged in further research to obtain final verification that these methods are indeed an ideal way of supervising rehabilitation.’
The press release recently published by the University of Twente says no word about a potential date of commercialisation. However, the fact that both insurance companies and healthcare professionals were involved from the early stages of the project leaves little doubt that stroke patients will soon benefit from this technological breakthrough.
Source: Based on information from CORDIS.