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Virtual physiotherapy system for Stroke survivors

An intelligent system to support home rehabilitation for Stroke survivors has been developed by a Leeds Beckett University academic.

Virtual physiotherapist system in action

The virtual physiotherapist system has been designed by Professor Dorothy Monekosso, Director of Research in the School of Computing, Creative Technologies and Engineering at Leeds Beckett, with the aim of providing real-time feedback, assessment of patient performance and objective measures of progress to care providers direct from a patient’s home.

Professor Monekosso explained: “Every year, more than 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke and almost a million people in the UK are living with the after-effects. Common effects are physical weakness and paralysis of one or more limbs. There is no cure, symptoms are managed with physiotherapy.

“Once discharged from hospital the patient must continue physiotherapy in the form of exercises. These are relatively easy for able-bodied people but challenging for the Stroke survivor. A patient is advised to carry out tens of repetitions daily.

“However, several factors limit the amount of time a patient spends in supervised physiotherapy sessions; economic factors, ability to travel to and from a clinic, health, and motivation.”

The virtual physiotherapist system uses video analytics, to support upper limb rehabilitation within the patient’s home. It monitors the exercise and has several potential benefits: patients can have more frequent physiotherapy sessions; clinician and patient receive improved clinical assessment of their progress; and it is a very cost-effective management of a long-term condition.

A prototype system has been developed, which comprises a camera and computing equipment installed at the patient’s home; linked by residential broadband to a clinic. The system collects and processes the video data and, through a user interface, guides the patient through rehabilitation exercises providing feedback and encouragement in real-time.

The system assesses patient performance and sends this information to the physiotherapist based at the clinic, providing an objective measure of progress.

In situations where internet connectivity is not available the system can be used standalone with the data store on-board.

Virtual physiotherapist system in action

Professor Monekosso and her team are now collaborating with Stroke and rehabilitation experts to further develop the user interface and evaluate the system, including trialling the virtual physiotherapist with Stroke patients.

To do this, and prepare the product for commercial launch, Professor Monekosso has been awarded a £5,000 Proof of Market grant by Grow MedTech, a new programme supporting medical technology innovation in the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions.

Grow MedTech is funding projects that advance the development and de-risking of technologies to make them more attractive for further investment from commercial organisations.

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