A new academic/industry partnership is set to aid the recovery of stroke survivors and amputees. A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University and PAL Technologies Ltd will develop patient-centred training tools for use at home and in the community to improve walking abilities. The wireless based technology will also offer cloud based data management and visualisation to allow both the patient and their therapist to share ongoing progress and goal attainment, thereby increasing the chances of a more successful rehabilitation.
Traditionally, the rehabilitation of those with reduced mobility as a result of stroke or amputation (a common complication of diabetes for instance), has been challenging for the patient and their support team of healthcare professionals. Current interventions designed to assist often prove difficult for the patient to follow and, particularly if they also have other associated health problems, can lead to disenchantment with the process which results in failure to maintain the rehabilitation programme.
In contrast, the new AGILE (Ambulatory Guidance for Interactive Locomotion Enhancement) project will fully and personally engage the patient in their own rehabilitation throughout the entire process. A novel technology solution will enable real-time measurement and data analysis with direct feedback on progress being provided to both patient and healthcare professionals. An additional, important, benefit of this more direct involvement in the rehabilitation programme by all parties is that any modifications or adjustments required to aid the patient in making a quicker and more effective recovery can be easily agreed upon and swiftly implemented.
AGILE’s industrial partner, Glasgow based PAL Technologies, has a track record in providing clinical measurement tools for researchers worldwide who quantify physical behaviours (sitting, standing, stepping) and link sedentary behaviours with chronic disease risk. CEO Douglas Maxwell said, “Our current activPALTM devices require to be worn for a period of time with data subsequently being downloaded and analysed but the new device will incorporate wireless technology and real time feedback. Involvement in this 30 month project will allow us not only to offer an improved product to our existing core market of clinical researchers but also to build on the relationship we already have with a major prosthetic manufacturer, and engage more fully in the rehabilitation sector.
“Our expectation is that the new technology will enable us to launch a further range of products, initially in the UK and US markets, expanding our workforce as required to meet demand for the new device.”
AGILE’s academic partners meanwhile contribute valuable sensors, orthotics and human movement expertise, as well as state-of-the-art human performance laboratories. “Delivering rehabilitation by measuring movement within controlled laboratory conditions is something which we have extensive experience of,” said the project team’s knowledge base supervisor Dr Andrew Kerr, a core member of the Centre for Excellence for Rehabilitation Research (CERR) in the Biomedical Engineering Department of the University of Strathclyde. “However, a device which will provide real-time targeted feedback on the patient’s walking abilities outside the laboratory during their normal day-to-day life will be of immense assistance in motivating and encouraging the patient and will provide valuable information to their healthcare team.”
Dr Scott Telfer, a bioengineer based at Glasgow Caledonian University with a track record of research in healthcare and rehabilitation will provide academic support to the project. “With approximately 50 thousand and 20 million individuals in the UK and US respectively currently living with amputation, mainly lower limb,” he said, “it’s fantastic that this new device will offer those with reduced walking ability a hitherto missing personalised prescription for improved wellbeing. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Nicholas Smith has recently joined the project team in the key role of Software Engineer/KTP Associate and is based within PAL Technologies. Nicholas brings significant, relevant, technical expertise to the project thanks to his background in programing and system design skills, and in medical devices. Throughout the 30 month duration of the project Nicholas will be supervised by Dr Scott Telfer and also by Dr David Loudon, Senior Software Engineer, PAL Technologies.