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Patients will perform virtual’ exercises
Although much telemedicine rehab is being done between hospitals, at least one researcher believes that home-based rehabilitation is where the field is headed.
Grigore C. Burdea, PhD, the principal investigator and director of the Center for Computer Aids for Industrial Productivity at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, has developed a concept called the Rutgers Master. The product — a sensory glove that enables doctors and therapists to measure and control the amount of force a patient exerts from each finger when using the glove — is currently undergoing pilot tests at Stanford Medical School, where Burdea is working with Vincent Hentz, MD, head of Stanford’s division of hand surgery. Although the program is linked between Rutgers and Stanford, Burdea sees its eventual use in the home because it is PC-based. Patients ultimately will be able to borrow the system and connect it to their home computers, Burdea says.
Patients will be able to access exercises stored on the computer. The "virtual" exercises were developed through consultations with therapists and searches of clinical literature.
The product also hooks into a database, which will transmit information such as strength levels and number of repetitions achieved. Therapists can monitor this information so that adjustments can be made to the program. "This gives objective measures — scores, times, velocities. And numbers don’t lie," Burdea says.
Burdea, who is developing modifications of the product for use with elbow and knee injuries, believes the Rutgers Glove can save therapists time and money. "Today, medical cost pressures are such that people have less time with therapists," he says. "If you can reduce the time therapists spend with patients, this will have a medical and cost impact."