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Oovit PT: Makes Physical Therapy More Fun and Effective

Physical therapy is something that no ones wants to go through, and when we do go through it most of us are not very good at doing our exercises at home.  I know I was never very consistent when I had to do it, and that probably hindered my progress more than I would like to admit.  The reality is that the exercises are often difficult to understand from a blurry printout that has been copied a couple of hundred times.  Even if you do understand them, they are usually pretty boring and you just stop doing them after awhile.

Combining gaming and exercise is not really a new concept, but it is rapidly growing in popularity.  It is along those same lines that New Media Medicine at the MIT Media Lab is trying to improve the effectiveness of physical therapy.  Oovit PT is a virtual rehabilitation system that helps make physical therapy for enjoyable, and also more effective.

This video gives a short demonstration of how it works:

Oovit PT was originally designed to work with the Wii remote, but has since been modified to work with wockets which are much smaller.  The smaller size encourages users to participate longer, as well as being able to track other activity and motion throughout the person’s day.  This information can be used to help assess the effectiveness of the physical therapy, as well as to help recognize activities that may be harming the patient’s progress.  It is even reasonable to think that doctors could give real-time feedback to their patients through cell phones.

It is also being developed as a CollaboRhythm plug-in to make physical therapy even more interactive.  This would allow the doctor to monitor progress, make recommendations, and provide social support.

Motion sensing devices are becoming more and more useful in the healthcare industry, and the sky really is the limit when it comes to their application.  I genuinely feel like there is nothing out of reach if we simply get the right minds working on it.

October 27, 2011 I Written By

I’m Listening: Giving Patients the Chance to Speak

Communicating with your doctor is one of the most important steps in securing proper medical care.  If the doctor doesn’t know what you are feeling how can they possibly help you get better?  A new product is being developed which can help ease the sometimes difficult process of explaining to a doctor in plain terms what they will diagnose as a medical “alphabet soup”.

I’m Listening was developed to use an avatar to ask the simple questions that are needed early in a doctor’s visit to make it easier for patients to describe their symptoms and transition that information to the doctor.  Here is the description as provided on their website:

Increasing understanding of how to categorize patient symptoms for efficient diagnosis has led to structured patient interviews and diagnostic flowcharts that can provide diagnostic accuracy and save valuable physician time. But the rigidity of predefined questions and controlled vocabulary for answers can leave patients feeling over-constrained, as if the doctor (or computer system) is not really attending to them. I’m Listening is a system for automated questioning that respects the voice of the patient and makes the task of information elicitation more enjoyable and educational.

I’m Listening does not replace a human doctor, but can be used before an office visit to prepare the patient, deliver educational materials, triage care, and preorder appropriate tests, making better use of both doctor and patient time. It uses an on-screen avatar and natural language processing to (partially) understand the patient’s response. Key is a commonsense reasoning system that lets patients express themselves in unconstrained natural language, even using metaphor, and that maps the language to medically relevant categories.

The avatar animation framework used in I’m listening is powered by Oddcast.com. The commonsense reasoning is powered by Open Mind Commons and ConceptNet from the Software Agents group at the MIT Media Lab.

This type of product may not be widely accepted until they can prove its value, but it is certainly an interesting concept that could well remove some of the difficult aspects of doctor’s visits.

October 24, 2011 I Written By

ForgetAboutIT? Using All Your Toys to Help you Remember Your Medication

Now that pretty much everyone, with the exception of my mom, has a cell-phone, and the majority of cell-phones are smartphones, it is rare to see someone without one in the hand or in their pocket.  People take their phones everywhere, including some places that they are incredibly annoying.

On the other hand, many people have a difficult time remembering to take pills that will help them get better, or even prevent them from dying in some cases.  So why not combine this rapidly spreading technology with the ability to help us remember the really important things in life.

That is exactly what John Moore MD and Frank Moss of the MIT Media Lab are working towards.  Their new application, ForgetAboutIT?, is currently in development but here is the lowdown on what they are trying to accomplish:

Currently only 50% of patients with chronic diseases take their medications. The problem is not simple forgetfulness; it is a complex combination of lack of understanding, poor self-reflection, limited social support, and almost non-existent communication between provider and patient. ForgetAboutIT? is a system to support medication adherence which presupposes that patients engaged in tight, collaborative communication with their providers through interactive interfaces would think it preposterous not to take their medications. Technically, it is an awareness system that employs ubiquitous connectivity on the patient side through cell phones, televisions, and other interactive devices and a multi-modal collaborative workstation on the provider side. For this sponsor event, we are demonstrating a new application for hypertension management that we have piloted with the Mayo Clinic.

I think just about everyone has forgotten to take their medication at some point.  For people who require this medication to simply get through daily life it is essential that they not forget.  Apps like ForgetAboutIt? take advantage of something we will never leave home without, our cell-phone, to ensure that we never forget the medication that keeps us healthy.

October 13, 2011 I Written By

CollaboRythm: Getting Patients More Involved in Their Own Healthcare

When we talk about smartphone healthcare we generally think of one app, or one device, or one cool little gadget.  However, the true power of improved technology in healthcare is the synchronicity that can be achieved with those devices.

Now you don’t necessarily have to go to MIT to make that connection, but conveniently, they are looking into this very topic at MIT.  The MIT Media Lab, and more specifically New Media Medicine, has a whole slew of projects in this area, but one in particular that is trying to create this harmony of technology.

CollaboRythm is a collaborative interface where doctors and patients make contributions to the patients health.  This really makes a ton of sense seeing as how both people clearly have a vested interest in the patients health.  Let’s take a look at a few of the major points of emphasis from their website.

CollaboRhythm is a technology platform that enables a new paradigm of healthcare delivery; one where patients are empowered to become active participants and where doctors and other health professionals are transformed into real-time coaches. We believe that this radical shift in thinking is necessary to dramatically reduce healthcare costs, increase quality, and improve health outcomes.

This really is a dramatic shift in thinking.  I know I generally leave my health care concerns in the hands of my doctor.  Sure I consider what I eat and how I exercise and thinks like that, but when I make trips to the doctor, I go in, do whatever they tell me to do, and then go home and go on with my life.  Unless there are pills I need to take or something like that, I really don’t think much of it.  That being said, it does make sense to get patients more involved.

Patients own their data in CollaboRhythm: everything they see in the doctor’s office is available at home, or when they visit another doctor, or change jobs, or move across the world. Just as importantly, patients can contribute data of their own, things that doctors fail to see in the face of too many lab tests: data and perceptions about social support, diet, alternative therapies, and their effect on the patient;s quality of life. (Patients and physicians disagree on the reason for an office visit nearly 50% of the time.)

There are two major points here that make this program seem even more important.  The first one being the availability of information for the patient as they go to different doctors, and maybe even more so when they move.  As someone who has moved a lot of times in my life it would have been incredibly convenient to have all my medical information more readily available.  Instead, I have probably had things repeated that were not needed simply because my old records were not available.  Think of the time and money that could be saved if everyone simply had access to their own medical history.

The last sentence also addresses an interesting issue.  I know that plenty of patients don’t always agree with their doctors, but to think that 50% of patients are not on the same page as their doctor is a little bit scary to me.  They don’t really say where they got this number, but no matter where it comes from it certainly gets you thinking.  Again, how much time and money could be saved if doctors and patients were simply on the same page.

Patients of the future will know more about their health than their doctors. They have to. By making patients active, informed participants in their own care, we believe we can reduce health care costs, increase quality, and improve health outcomes.

This pretty much sums up the crux of what they are trying to achieve with this idea.  If we as patients are able to take a more active role in our healthcare we are sure to get better results.  If our doctors can rely on us to take on some of the load that makes their jobs easier and more efficient.  Combining the two saves everyone time and money, and in the current situation, that is always a good thing.

October 11, 2011 I Written By

Could a Smartphone Give You an Eye Exam?

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: It never ceases to amaze me the things that can be done with a smartphone.  The MIT Media Lab has developed a device that can attach to a smartphone and essentially provide an eye exam.  Here is the description they gave with the video below:

Our small, portable solution allows for anyone, anywhere to get an eye exam, and access a care provider through the mobile network. The setup consists of three parts: a smart phone, a hardware app and a software app.

Snap the NETRA adapter onto a smart phone loaded with NETRA software, follow the simple instructions, and quickly receive your prescription for glasses right on the phone. NETRA fits snugly in a pocket and requires minimal training to operate.

Starting with refractive errors and cataracts, NETRA and CATRA are our first of a growing line of solutions geared towards eye health. Stay tuned to our twitter feed for continual developments over the coming months.

 

 

They claim that it only requires minimal training, and judging by the video it looks pretty simple.  Obviously this won’t provide a comprehensive eye exam, but for people who can’t afford to go long distances to a doctor this could easily help them to see better.

As someone who has never really had vision problems, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to deal with not seeing well.  On the other hand I have seen my wife deal with poor vision and all of the difficulties it provides when she is not wearing her glasses.  Now people who previously had little to no chance of getting a prescription will no longer have to suffer through those difficulties.

It is also great to see that the caliber of people at MIT are working on healthcare devices and apps.  As more and more high quality developers get into the industry, the quality of new applications should only improve, and improve our lives.

More information is available on their website.

September 28, 2011 I Written By