People fall. Resultantly, they commonly lose much of their physical function and frequently die. Falls are the #1 cause of accidental death and traumatic brain injuries for seniors. These consequences also devastate the victim’s loved ones and friends. Falls are frequently associated with heart attacks, vertigo, blood pressure fluctuations, blood sugar fluctuations from diabetes, adverse reactions to medications, strokes and dizziness coinciding from respiratory disorders. Most often, musculoskeletal or neurological disorders impair or change the way a person walks, also known as their gait, and gait changes lead to falls. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the total annual cost of fall injuries for older Americans is estimated to be $30 billion. By 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $54.9 billion. One third of the entire senior population will fall this year, and each year thereafter.
By analyzing gait, falls can be predicted and in some cases prevented. The technology to preempt falls has taken a dramatic leap forward thanks to a New Mexico company and Google Glass. The Electronic Caregiver Company is a nationwide business headquartered in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and offers medical emergency response and health management systems for the aging and ill. Their services are recommended nationwide through hospitals, pharmacists, physicians and other health related partners. Part of their program includes a clinical research division that analyzes the causes of falls and develops intervention to prevent them.
“We’re excited about our integrated fall research program. We have partnered with fall prevention specialists at New Mexico State University and a leading Arizona based Neurological Research and Surgical Institute. We deploy the most advanced mobile fall assessment and gait analysis laboratory in America. Our lab is capable of screening individuals and can identify neurological and musculoskeletal disorders that frequently lead to devastating falls. Our precision instruments can even spot signs of a hemiplegic stroke or the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. By working with clinicians various methods of intervention can be applied to correct or treat conditions to prevent falls and loss of life”, said Anthony Dohrmann, CEO of The Electronic Caregiver Company.
Here’s how it works. An individual patient is interviewed using a proprietary application called the Comprehensive Falls Risk Screening Instrument (CFRSI). Patient history, hearing, vision and range of motion information is collected. The individual is then weighed, measured, and suited in custom apparel that includes a head mounted Google Glass apparatus. Reflective body markers are strategically placed from head to finger-tip, and head to toe. The patient then walks across a walkway embedded with tens of thousands of micro-pressure sensors. The walkway is placed inside a 360-degree ring of 3D motion capture imaging cameras. The company’s servers are flooded with over 420 dimensions of data generated from the combination of Google Glass, the pressure walkway, the 12 imaging cameras, and the CFRSI application. An entire multi-dimensional topography of information is available to interpret from the collection of comprehensive data.
Google Glass is a wearable computer featuring an optical head-mounted display and the world’s first 9-axis gyroscope. The Electronic Caregiver Company has developed Glass applications that record measurements and create a 3D image of an individual’s head and movement. An individual’s feedback, performance and gait analysis is compared with head position, movements, vestibular insights (inner ear) and critical measurements obtained from the Google Glass Fall Research Application (GGFRA). Information is reported to the company’s secured servers for analysis.
“The Electronic Caregiver Company is on the leading edge of emerging diagnostics and health related data collection,” said Dr. Timothy M. Fullagar, MD, neurosurgeon at East Tennessee Brain & Spine Center. “The configuration of the assessment tools they’ve assembled in a mobile configuration, allows them to collect a wide variety of crucial data from nationwide demographics. They’re doing it faster and more affordably than ever before. The data they’re collecting is the critical asset required to code neural implants, to advance mobile health devices with breakthrough new algorithms, to advance prosthetics and it is the basis for a variety health related solutions.”
Fall risk scores are created for each individual by the Electronic Caregiver Company in a detailed report, with suggested courses of action to discuss with a clinician. Physicians empowered with this data can apply methods of intervention and prevention that can range from pharmacological, physical to surgical.
“We can tell a significant amount about where a patient is heading, why they are suffering certain discomfort, and we can very accurately demonstrate how and why they will fall,” said David Keeley, PhD and fall research expert at NMSU. “With that information, preventative consultations can be implemented to counter a discrepancy from normal gait and balance. For instance, if a stride on the left leg is longer than the right, the patient will make compensatory adjustments to their upper and lower body to walk in a straight line, and keep upright. These adjustments result in the center of gravity being out of alignment, with an offset center of mass over center of pressure, resulting in stress and wear on joints and ligaments. It takes a lot less of an influence to knock an individual with a gait discrepancy totally off balance.”
“One of the exciting aspects of our work with the Electronic Caregiver Fall Research Program, is the impact we foresee on health diagnostics and mobile health devices,” said Dr. Robert Wood, a fall researcher and Academic Director of the Department of Human Performance at New Mexico State University. “It’s inspiring to see technologies like this being advanced for life safety and health related purposes. When these screening technologies are implemented and combined with other wearable devices, and advanced clinical assessment tools, the available outcomes are substantial. There are thousands of developers who will need access to our data to perfect and advance their technologies. In the end our mission is always about the individuals and patients. We want to reduce their pain and suffering, reduce loss of life, preserve independence, improve therapeutic advances, and over all quality of life.”
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