Wearable Technologies to Support Lower Limb Rehabilitation and Clinical Practice: user requirements, design and evaluation

Islam, Riasat (2023). Wearable Technologies to Support Lower Limb Rehabilitation and Clinical Practice: user requirements, design and evaluation. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00016d31


The widespread adoption of wearable technologies in healthcare has the potential to bring about significant improvements. However, these technologies face design challenges when applied in real world settings and must be tailored to specific contexts of use and the needs of a diverse user base. This thesis investigates these issues in two distinct yet related areas of healthcare: neurorehabilitation and clinical movement analysis.

In neurorehabilitation, the research builds on previous work that demonstrated the effectiveness of wearable rhythmic haptic metronomes in improving and measuring the gait of individuals with neurological conditions in laboratory settings. This study takes this approach into the community and care home settings, using a technology probe method to identify the real-life requirements and design considerations of potential end-users and clinicians. This process identified a range of physical, sensory, and cognitive issues that are relevant to the design of the haptic metronomes, including haptic perception ability, wearability, interaction techniques, and individual preferences for body placement.

The second part of the thesis initially focused on the potential of active cueing for musculoskeletal conditions, but formative discussions with specialist physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons suggested that wearable clinical movement analysis would be a more suitable focus. Currently, proprietary systems for objectively assessing lower limb movements are either poorly suited or too expensive. To address this gap, non-proprietary software called MoJoXlab, paired with low-cost wearable inertial sensors was validated against high-end commercial software to perform clinical movement analysis. The results of these tests were compared across a range of activities, including walking, squatting, and jumping. MoJoXlab was further validated with a different sensor system, and limitations and nuances of supporting multiple sensor systems were identified.

Overall, this thesis highlights the importance of considering the needs and preferences of diverse users and the specific conditions and contexts in which wearable technologies will be used to effectively design and implement these technologies in healthcare.

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