Kinect app for physical therapy put to the test

A year ago, during the 2014 BUILD conference, we profiled Reflexion Health, a San Diego-based software startup that had developed a promising Kinect for Windows application to track physical therapy patients’ exercise sessions. We’re now pleased to report that this application, called Vera, is being piloted by five medical centers, including Brooks Rehabilitation, one of Florida’s leading providers of rehab services.

Vera takes full advantage of Kinect’s depth sensing and body tracking capabilities, both of which were significantly enhanced in the latest Kinect sensor, using them to capture a patient’s exercise moves in precise detail. It provides patients with a model for how to perform the exercise correctly, and simultaneously compares the patient’s movements to the prescribed exercise. Vera thus offers patients immediate, real-time feedback—no more wondering if you’re lifting or twisting in the right way. The data on the patient’s movements are also shared with the therapist, so that he or she can track the patient’s progress and adjust the exercise regimen remotely for maximum therapeutic benefit. The system even allows the patient and physical therapist to interact in real time through live video conferencing.

"One of the features I've been most impressed with is the system's ability to capture subtle deviations from optimal form. If a patient is trying to move their hip to the right but they twist their hip, the system will provide feedback on the screen telling them how to perform the exercise correctly. It picks up the nuances that are really important to a physical therapist," says Drew Kayser, PT, clinical orthopedic therapy coordinator at Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, Florida.

Another enormous benefit of the Vera application is that it keeps patients on track with their rehab. As any physical therapist will tell you, once patients leave the clinic, many of them lose momentum, often struggling to perform their exercises correctly at home—or simply skipping them altogether. Vera gives patients detailed instructions and crucial feedback—and even counts their reps. Because Vera reports patient progress to the therapist, patients are less likely to cheat on the prescribed regimen.

"It's been shown time and time again that adherence to a home exercise program generates better results, but only about 25% of patients adhere to their exercise program. If they have to log in, I can tell how much they are exercising and how accurate they are with their specific exercises. It provides a level of engagement and accountability that will ultimately benefit them in the long run," explains Kayser.

Brooks Rehabilitation is testing Vera with patients who’ve recently had a knee or hip replacement and meet criteria to use the at-home system. They begin working with a therapist who sets up Vera in their home for the duration of their rehab. Feedback provided from Brooks will allow Reflexion to make additional, clinically based enhancements to the system—a boon to all future rehab patients.

The Kinect for Windows Team

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