SKYRE smart knee brace
Reinventing the patient-physio relationship
We know that since Covid-19 people feel more motivated to be and stay healthy, but how can that translate into more effective, higher-value relationships with health professionals where the patient feels in control? Our work on SKYRE wearable technology is an example of how we have transformed the conventional patient-physiotherapist relationship and created a truly empowering and connected partnership.
A tear or sprain to the anterior cruciate ligament is one of the most problematic sports injuries and rehabilitation after surgery can be a long haul. It is based on scaled activity intended to regenerate rather than just a time-based healing process, and so involves close direction from a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist needs to understand exactly where the patient is in the rehabilitation and physical activity regime, and then increase or modify it at precisely the right points.
Our team of designers, engineers, researchers, and material specialists collaborated with a team led by Salvatore Tedesco, from the Wireless Sensor Network Group, at the Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork to create a wearable device in the form of two leg-sleeves worn above and below the affected knee. This closely measures specific muscle movement. Remote monitoring allows the physiotherapist to see the progression curve, see how it’s beginning to match the healthy knee, and advise on how the regime can be amended.
But what about the patient and their ability to feel in control, fully informed, and motivated? The answer is a digitally connected means of monitoring progress that is both empowering and effective. Our app uses a voice-based interface to provide advice and encouragement to the patient, just like a physiotherapist being there on the spot. This is important because it helps the user to stay focused and on track. Active monitoring and timely communication ensure that both wearer and physiotherapist are aligned, working together for a speedier recovery.
We have been at the forefront of wearable technology for the last 20 years and SKYRE is the latest example from our Wearables Lab. It is evidence of how a smart healthcare approach can create a higher quality of interaction between patient and clinician to drive better outcomes. Rather than a conventional situation where patient and physio meet periodically, we have effectively created a live therapeutic relationship where information is shared in real-time and the patient feels in control. In this sense, the traditional patient/physio relationship has been revolutionised and imbued with far greater value.