From veterans to stroke patients, physical therapy candidates can greatly benefit from rehabilitating practices in improving their mobility and health. However, there are many challenges for patients in need of therapy --from living too far from a treatment facility, to not having access to a professional in their area, patients who need to access a physical therapist might not get the treatment they need on a regular basis. The result --a difficult, slow recovery that could be avoided with better access to care.
Scientists and medical researchers are hoping to bring physical therapy into the homes of patients through advanced haptic technology and fast internet connections.
At the University of Texas-Dallas, researchers developed a rehabilitation system that can deliver therapy care through high-speed Internet, 3D-worlds, video calling, and the use of “haptic” devices that measure touch and forces from a patient. Combined together, this technology can recreate a PT session without the patient and doctor relocating to a far-away clinic. Instead, a 3D-world can recreate activities to help the patient--such as a tree-sawing exercise--with the haptic device recording the amount of work the patient exerts, feeding data to the doctor who can adjust treatment, all in real-time. On his end, the patient can feel the weight of the virtual log and the difficulty of moving the saw through the haptic device, which will help them understand their strengths and limits.
The researchers are hoping to deploy their technology first with veterans undergoing therapy. Overall, these technological advancements can make PT more accessible to patients, especially those who cannot travel to a facility based on their physical or financial limitations. And as homes receive faster Internet connections, more and more people can benefit from a virtual therapy session.
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