Scientists to Connect Stroke Survivors

$1.1 million grant goes to further development of SARAH project for stroke survivors

Scientists at the VTC Smart Rehab Lab are developing breakthrough, affordable technologies and methods to connect stroke survivors to physical therapy at home through tele-rehabilitation.

The lab was awarded $1.1 million by the National Science Foundation to continue development of its Semi-Automated Rehabilitation At Home (SARAH) project. The system will include a fused knowledge base of human and machine learning to assess patient performance during training and daily activities at the home and provide feedback to the patient and summaries of progress to the remote therapist – a major innovation that can be expanded to a range of therapy needs.

The VTC Smart Rehab Lab is a collaboration of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and Carilion Clinic, which will conduct clinical tests of the equipment and methods.

The project responds to growing demand for physical therapy as the U.S. population ages. Annually, 795,000 people suffer strokes in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a leading cause of lost mobility and long-term disability.

While many of these patients are older, they’re well-suited for a new mode of therapy, said Rikakis, who is also co-leader of the Interactive Neurorehabilitation Lab at Virginia Tech.

“These are people who are not exactly digital natives, but they have grown up with technology,” he said. Younger stroke survivors with built-in comfort in the digital realm would also benefit from the SARAH system.

The physical and occupational therapy industry identified the need for in-home therapy options at scale over a decade ago, Rikakis said. But telerehabilitation saw little progress because the expert functions of therapists couldn’t be replicated at home. SARAH’s fused cyber human analysis of patient data captures therapist expertise, and technology has advanced in ways that make it practical and cost effective. In addition, the semi-automated approach of SARAH keeps the therapist-patient relation at the core of the therapy.

“We have a system that anybody can look at, and they don’t need to be an expert, and they can see this going into a home,” Rikakis said.

SOURCE: Virginia Tech

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