Many seniors who are at risk for osteoporotic fractures decrease their physical activity and weight-bearing (for many reasons) which creates a negative feedback cycle and increases their risk of further fractures and falls due to weakness and reduced balance.
This device (wireless sensors embedded in insoles or shoes) would aid in monitoring, tracking, and improving objective balance measures. It is able to track the center of mass (COM) over the base of support (BOS) using sensors and feed that data to a mobile app. Similar in concept to the Wii Fit balance board, this device is much more flexible and allows complete ease of movement without restriction, which allows for monitoring throughout the day as well as focused game play apps to improve balance.
As opposed to other tracking sensors (ie. accelerometers like FitBit) this sensor can objectively track time in weightbearring, track COM over BOS movement, and can even provide feedback for guided exercises.
Although this technology exists in other industries (ie running) it does not exist at all in the realm of balance control and would offer many opportunities for furthering research into fall prevention. My hope is that this device would have an open API to allow other innovators to develop novel approaches to fall prevention. It also offers new opportunities for other markets such as pediatric rehab, concussion monitoring, sports training, and the gaming market.
To truly improve balance, the patient must improve the control of their center of mass over their base of support. That is difficult for patients, caregivers, and even physical therapists to convey. Current smart sensors such as accelerometers do not collect this type of data. This device measures those parameters in a valid, low cost way and provides an entertaining game that can motivate even patients with dementia.
I am a geriatric physical therapist with degrees in biomechanics and product design. I have already tested a prototype with seniors and received positive feedback from PT and biomechanics researchers. I know that this could be a very helpful resource for many patients with OP to reduce the incidence of fractures.
This sensor technology has already been developed for other consumer fields. For example, https://www.arion.run/wearable/ uses shoe based force sensitive resistors to report and track pressure patterns while running, which suggests that such a device would be able to withstand the rigors of a senior lifestyle :)
IMPACTING SOCIAL ISOLATION
- Loneliness and isolation can be significant issues that affect seniors' motivation for increasing activity. This device could be used to reduce these factors by implementing some of the following ideas...
- Multiplayer balance games with the possibility to connect with other players. I love the concept of the video game Journey (https://youtu.be/bKqeD7ojynw?t=57) that allows player interactions in a non-forced way.
- Offering incentives and listings for local, evidence based balance classes.
- Partnering up app users (or family/caregivers) to work towards goals.
Computerized dynamic posturography, aka CDP (ie. the use of computers to quantify postural control in upright stance in either static or dynamic conditions) has a substantial evidence base showing it's validity for improving balance and reducing falls. Here are just a few of many published articles.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11568601 - CDP is sensitive for identifying people who have previously fallen. The Limits of Stability test was the most significant indicator.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21801090 - a CDP training program showed promise as a systematic, objective method to reduce fall risk with improved overground performance of balance tasks in an individual with chronic stroke.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25515202 - Balance training with a gaming system showed promise as a feasible, objective and enjoyable method to improve physical performance and reduce fall risk in an individual.