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“The System Is to Enable Patients to Do Rehab Exercises at Home”

Rehabilitation at Home: “The system is to enable patients to do rehab exercises at home”


Photo: Didier Stricker

Professor Didier Stricker; © DFKI

After a rehab patients have to continue doing further exercises which help them to become fit again. The European project PAMAP could help them in future – with the help of sensors, a virtual coach and data which a physician can recall again. talked to Professor Didier Stricker of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and leader of the project about delighted physiotherapists, motivated patients and the advantage towards simple interactive sports games on the computer. Professor Stricker, for whom has the assistance system been developed?

Didier Stricker: PAMAP has two fields of application: On the one hand, it can be used in the area of rehab. On the other hand in everyday life it is able to measure fitness and to increase it. It has been developed particularly for the target group of senior citizens to motivate them to stay active and to become as fit as possible. How did you hit on the idea to develop PAMAP?

Stricker: The idea for PAMAP originated when I met a biomechanist in 2007 on a congress. He told me about the fact that patients have to continue exercises after a rehabilitation, however, they have to do them alone at home and are not able to do it optimally. An assistance system could help them. In 2009 we started to develop PAMAP which is going to run till the end of May, 2012.

Photo: Woman with virtual figur on a screen

The virtual figur on the screen imitates the real movements; © DFKI What is the aim of PAMAP?

Stricker: The system is to enable patients to do rehab exercises at home. With sensors on the body the assistance system measures how a person moves. In the field of rehab the exercises which the physiotherapist recommends can also be done with instructions outside the clinic. How does the training run off at home?

Stricker: If, for example, arm exercises have to be done, sensors are fixed at different places on the arm and breast. The data is send to a programme which can be watched on a computer as well as a television – namely three-dimensional. A virtual trainer shows the patient how to move. A figure on the screen moves in the same way the patient does. If exercises are done wrong, for example, the arm is extended too much or not high enough, the patient is warned immediately and arrows show the right movement. What happens to the data?

Stricker: Every data is stored. The physician or physiotherapist can recall it to see how the patient’s state of health is developing and so give the right advices.

Photo: Training

Doing the right exercices in the right time; © DFKI Do physiotherapists and physicians not feel a little bit threatened by a programme which does their work?

Stricker: Up to now, the physiotherapists to which I introduced the programme reacted very positively. They are often snowed under with work and see PAMAP as a support. Moreover, there will be less and less caregivers and only modern technologies can help in this case. But a computer system should not and cannot substitute a therapist’s work, but support him. Which advantages does this have for the health system?

Stricker: PAMAP could save costs because patients would not have to drive to rehab daily anymore, but maybe only every second day. The exercises can be carried out more effectively and independently. Without PAMAP patients have to report their doctor or fill in questionnaires what they did at home, how often and when. This is very subjective. With the assistance system this is much more exact. Have senior citizens already tested the system?

Stricker: A few times – and it motivated them very much. Moreover, in November a study with 30 over 65 years old cardiac patients is going to start. They are going to try out PAMAP over three to four months.

Photo: Hand holding a chip

PAMAP offers physicians collected data of patients' movements; © DFKI When will PAMAP be available?

Stricker: PAMAP is still a prototype. At the moment talks are running for the marketing. I assume that the technology will be ready in about two years. In the fitness area it will be easier to set it up. In the rehabilitation field it will be more difficult, because to reach medical centres, PAMAP has to be certificated first and be approved by the health insurances. What is the difference to other sports programmes on the computer?

Stricker: PAMAP is three-dimensional and equipped with much better sensors. Movements are thereby saved much more precisely. Will you also use PAMAP later?

Stricker: I think so, yes, because I find it very exciting.

The interview was conducted by Natascha Mörs.


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