In the Netherlands, around 45.000 Dutch people have a stroke annually; worldwide even around 33 million people had a stroke in 2010. With the increasingly aging population it is logical that these numbers will see a further increase in the coming years. People that survive a stroke often have to deal with physical limitations. The purpose of the rehabilitation program that normally follows is to let patients function as well as possible in their daily lives. In practice the rehabilitation however often takes place in a rehabilitation clinic and this does not allow for an adequate insight in the way a patient deals with his or her limitations in their daily life at home. Even though it is known that knowledge about the daily routine of these people plays an important role in better rehabilitation that is more cost effective. UT-PhD candidate Bart Klaassen, together with a team, developed, within a FP7 European research project, a system which allows you to carefully measure and model the quality of movement of these patients and have the ability to send relevant data to the responsible therapist. Worldwide, it is the first project in which researchers are able to analyze the complete movements of patients in their home-environment, with such a system. “There had been a need for this kind of system for a long time, but the technology was just not yet at the level we needed it to be,” explains Klaassen. “That is rapidly changing at the moment, thanks to raid developments in the field of battery technology, wearables, smart e-textiles and big data analysis.”
Together with an extensive consortium, consisting of engineers and care professionals, Klaassen developed the INTERACTION System. This consists of a suit that the research’s participants had to wear beneath their clothing for three months and the complete technological infrastructure that sends the data, saves and processes it. The suit consists of no less than 41 sensors, amongst which sensors on a large number of body segments, sensors that measure thew, stretching sensor on the back and hands and strength sensors on the soles of shoes. In addition, the suit is also equipped with a wearable transmitter that can send all information through the internet to the data processing servers at the University of Twente. The clinical research took place at Roessingh Research and Development, where sessions were held with those patients having suffered a stroke. The user-friendliness of the suit was the main challenge. Patients asked for an ‘invisible suit’ that could also be worn beneath clothing in summer. Also, the suit had to be easy to put on with 1 arm.
Within his PhD-research, Klaassen has proofed that the system in functioning in practice. “We have shown, amongst others, that the transfer of information succeeded and is also efficient. We have succeeded in modelling all relevant movements and filtering out the relevant data for the therapist. Our project has delivered new techniques and methods making it possible to monitor patients at home for a prolonged time and map differences with structures clinical measurements. At the moment, we’re conducting additional research to provide a definitive confirmation on the proof of optimal support of the rehabilitation trajectory with the help of these methods.” In the development of the system, Klaassen and his team made use of a user centred design-approach. This allowed them to incorporate the patient’s feedback in the development of the system. Additionally, other relevant parties, such as insurance companies and care professionals, we also involved in the design and research from an early stage.