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The Flow

Possible Honours Project... Is this the one?

Right, so I am going to do a bigger project this year than I’ve ever done before in my studies. I’m back here because I have some ideas, inventions that I want to work on (even if they take a looong time).

One of the biggest problems I (and other health professionals like me) have, is that there really in no good and reliable way of doing movement screening. So wouldn’t it be good if we could use technology to help us create a system that would capture authentic movement, outside of the clinical environment? Something that could measure and use the information to create an individualised baseline for an individual. That could ping you when movement/pressure/retention/etc is off. Something that was intelligent enough to know you form the inside.

I mean, we all know research is good. But we also know that normal is a spectrum, and not everybody who is within “normal” will be pain free, or move well. The body is amazing in the way that it can really adapt to most things. The most “abnormal” physique could function quite well, and the most normal could be very dysfunctional. As humans, it is very difficult to identify, in a reliable way, which body is doing well, and which body isn’t. We are however, pretty good at interventions. But again, we don’t have reliable ways to measure how well these work for a single individual. We do have research, on some methods, but within the research, there are big differences between individuals. Why? There are many factors. But one that I think it contributing to it, is that we don’t have the well needed methods of measuring that we need. Another is that in one study, we can have people from many different backgrounds, so for example someone who is also depressed, might get a worse scoring in a research study, not due to the method tested, but due to being in a headspace where the patient/client can’t really “absorb” the method at hand. I believe that an intelligent system could pick up on this (this is actually already a thing), and then the preferred method of treatment could be changed to something that the patient/client responds better to. Which might not always be the most optimal way according to research, but it might be the most optimal method for this person, in this case, due to circumstances.

I’ve talked to a few people about this project. When I speak to medical professionals, or health professionals, they react positively, as they too can see the need. One good medical example is screening before and after a surgery. How long does it take for the patient to surpass the previous level of function after a knee surgery? It would be easy to conduct observational studies on this data (if the patient allowed it), as you would be able to measure the average recovery, how much better function gets on average and for how long that lasts. An intelligent system would also be able to “ping” the patient if the joint hasn’t had "enough” movement for recovery (which would probably stiffen up the joint).

So, what I thought I was after when I first started thinking of this project was how to capture the movement. But I’ve realised that the technology is pretty much available today, and HOW to capture probably isn’t the bigger issue here. The bigger issue as I see it is the way of developing an AI system that could do all these things, and allow professionals of the health field to speak the same language. How could a system like this be made accessible to the general public? What are the limitations and possibilities? Which technologies are safest and would be most practical and cost efficient to use? What would the non-techy health professionals need in terms of software, for them to be able to use it intuitively, with the most chance of success? What would the user experience be, for the professional, and for the patient/client?

What I’m thinking is that this turned into a experience based project rather than a technical one, which was my intention to start with. I am however much more fascinated by the experiential side, and I believe that’s where something like this can really make a difference compared to what’s available today. The technology would be much more patient/client centered than can be offered today, and with an empowered patient/client, I’m sure that we could achieve much better progress in the health field in general. I think health care today neglects the psychological experience today, which is part of why it’s so unreliable. We, as humans, simply aren’t good enough at assessing were people are at mentally, and so we have a hard time meeting the person where they’re at, in their journey. A system will never be able to replace humans, but it will make it a lot easier for humans to give other humans just the right “human touch”..