The method will not replace competent physiotherapists but could be used by them as an additional tool in guiding clients either in person or remotely.
One area of interest to the researchers is the ergonomics of care. The project will pilot a method that is based on wearable sensors and a state estimation algorithm, which allows physiotherapists to see if there is any harmful loading during the working day, such as excessive vertebral loading caused by lifting and moving of patients.
“We have previously studied, in a laboratory setting, the impact of a tool that reduces friction on the forces at play when moving patients. Now, one of our objectives is to develop, using wearable motion sensors and pressure sensing insoles, a measurement method and analysis software that is suitable for nurses’ working environment,” Vartiainen says.
The study is based on engineering design research carried out by Mikkola’s research group, which has been applied to cranes used in the forest industry and in excavators, among other things. This existing collaboration between LUT University and the University of Jyväskylä is now supplemented by musculoskeletal biomechanics research carried out in the HUMEA Lab at the Department of Technical Physics of the University of Eastern Finland.
According to Vartiainen, one pilot will be to examine the ergonomics of physicians rehearsing endoscopic surgery.
“During rehearsing in an arthroscopy simulator, we can determine the orientation of the physician’s head and shoulders in real time by using wearable sensors. Based on the pilot cases, it is possible to develop an app that warns the surgeon of a wrong neck position or excessive loading in real time.”