Healthcare workers are at a high risk of low back injuries due to the use of dangerous postures and high hand loads when handling patients, which can place excessive loads on the spine. They need improved training methods to make sure they move more safely. However, when it comes to training, simply telling people how to move doesn’t work. Instead, we believe healthcare workers should be coached like athletes.
In collaboration with Saint Elizabeth Health Care, we’ve develop PostureCoach. This system uses two accelerometer-based sensors (Shimmer) and data processing smartphone, all of which are embedded in a wearable device. When poor postures are detected, the system vibrates to warn the caregiver. The video below demonstrates a PC-based version of the system in action. The exclamation mark represents times when the healthcare worker would feel a vibration to indicate they have bent too far.
We ran a small pilot study with 18 participants were asked to perform a series of patient handling tasks as shown in the video below:
Participants were asked to perform the activities with (coaching) and without feedback (baseline) from PostureCoach. The graph below shows the mean 90th percentile trunk flexion angles adopted during the simulated task. We see significant differences for the Novice and Student groups indicating the system is likely most useful for those will little or no experience in patient handling but perhaps less useful for experienced clinicians who did not have a significant difference between baseline and coaching trials.