Patients struggling with their fine motor-skills can now turn to a new medical device developed by MediTouch to assist them in their treatment. The company created the HandTutor system, which uses impairment-oriented training and augmented feedback to accelerate successful rehabilitation and recovery.
The Israel-based company helps patients anywhere in the world with its remote, online system which takes therapy to the next level. The HandTutor, the first in a series of rehabilitation tools, is a system made up of an ergonomic neoprene glove with built-in movement sensors connected to a software package. Capturing fine motions with the glove, the software uses image-based biofeedback to help patients visualize their improvements. Read More...
The software includes mini-games which offer an interactive form of rehabilitation and improve success rates, by keeping patients interested in coming back. MediTouch recommends its product for patients as young as seven years old recovering from strokes, spinal cord and head injuries, major burns, Parkinson's disease, Cerebral Palsy, development coordination disorders, post hand surgery rehabilitation and other orthopedic problems.
Game Forward had the chance to sit in on one of these online therapy sessions, via remote connection. Such sessions are typically scheduled once every two weeks and last approximately 45 minutes each.
“The glove fits well, you don’t really notice it after a while,” said Billy, a 26-year old from New York. He has been using the HandTutor for about a year to rehabilitate his left hand after having a stroke two years ago.
After his stroke, Billy began experiencing troubles on the left side of his body, mainly with his hand, ankle and thigh. With the HandTutor, he is working to improve the flexibility and extension of his index and thumb.
In one of the software’s mini-games, Billy uses a pinching motion to guide a marker along a moving yellow path. Remotely, his therapist adjusts a variety of software settings, increasing or reducing the glove's sensitivity, the type of movement that are evaluated, the width of the path and the speed at which it scrolls. With each change of setting, the therapist seeks different results and can push the patient further.
During remote sessions with MediTouch, therapists will also guide the patient by voice and video conference, asking them to perform certain actions and see how easily the patient succeeds. This patient-therapist connection is complemented by the quantitative data acquired by the software. Patients using the HandTutor also perform daily rehab sessions on their own, and can adjust each setting themselves.
Listening in on the rehab session, while viewing the software’s augmented feedback, I felt myself cheering for Billy, as he managed to increase his range of movement by a few millimetres. Without the software, understanding patient progress and remaining committed to the rehab program is a much bigger challenge.
The key to successful rehabilitation is intense mass practice, explains Alan Waterman of MediTouch. “Rehabilitation is most motivating when you push yourself to the limit of your ability, setting the difficulty slightly above your ability,” said Waterman, in a Skype interview with Game Forward.
While some rehabilitation specialists are turning to the Nintendo Wii and mass-market aoftware as a therapy tool, the HandTutor is infinitely customizable, can be precisely fine-tuned, measures inter-joint motion and actually works, explains Waterman. Therapists can also use the software to test a patient's healthy side, providing a baseline for treatment.
"The HandTutor can be used for a broad spectrum of patients with differing starting abilities," Waterman highlights. "According to our experience and research, the use of the HandTutor enhances functional recovery significantly."
The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine and the Colombia University Medical Center have already acquired the HandTutor for use with their own patients. Other rehabilitation centres have also demonstrated interested in the technology.
Individuals can purchase the FDA-certified software and peripheral directly at a cost of about $1800 USD, which includes three tele-rehab training sessions. Additional Tutors have recently been developed to treat the ankles, legs and elbows and are slated for launch in September 2010.
A video demonstration of the HandTutor technology is available here.