Empowering Patients with Technology

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Some of the opportunities to empower patients I think are quite exciting and that's something else that I think has changed in recent years, so much of the early work, medical applications of body sensing were focused on what information we can give to the doctor, now there's been a little bit more interest focused on what we can give back to a patient to be in more control of their own health.

It's something that historically in the medical field we haven't really done. I've never seen my medical chart, that's it in my doctor's office, so there is an interesting opportunity I think to empower patients and empower care givers as well. Some of the studies that I'm involved in are related to trying to ease caregiver burden for family members of patients with dementia, it's an enormous issue that care giver burden and then it's being the major reason why a family member ends up transitioning their loved one from living at home with them to a care facility.

So one of the specifics that things that we're looking at is agitation and dementia patients, which is one of the things that has a significant impact on care giver burden, so we're working to try to understand agitation better or what causes it, what are some things that we can do to help reduce the incidence of agitation, more the severity of it, so those are the kinds of things that are emerging in recent years that are a little bit different than just what information can we give to the doctor.

I'm working with some people in orthopedic surgery to try to improve orthopedic devices with children with [xx], so as you might imagine aspects of orthopedic are enormously high tech in a way that the orthopedic devices are created are pretty high-tech, but they ultimately relying on patient self report to see how effective that orthopedic device is for that child, when they're in their natural environment.

Sure they can bring him into the hospital and run some tests, but how does the person really function day to day and how much does it really help them a certain aspects of their gate, of how they walk and is it having intended effect, so we're embedding sensors into orthopedic devices, so we're going to be able to do continuous long term monitoring of their gate, measure activity levels and measure specific gate parameters that the orthopedic devices are designed to address.

I think it's an important application, it's one that's I think badly needed in that area of medicine and it's certainly, personally, extraordinaryly rewarding application to work with these kids, they come in, we show them what we're doing and they get excited about it, and it's a wonderful experience for me and for my students and certainly for the patients and their families.