Smart medicine makes rehab, surgery easier and effective
Smart medicine is the future of medicine. Information technology, artificial intelligence, and big data are becoming increasingly important in health care, which is evolving to be more human-centered and convenient. This series, which covers various aspects of the health field, is intended to demonstrate what high technology, smart systems, and inventions are capable of.
What is your schedule one hour before going to bed?
This question possibly has more resonance with people who suffer from bone and muscle issues or have had an orthopedic operation.
A good choice for them would be to open a health app, put sensors on the body and follow the videos of therapists in undergoing rehabilitation exercise for a painful back, neck, legs and arms after long-term work or positions that suffer sports injuries or parts which received an orthopedic surgery.
Intelligent medicine is now allowing people to do rehabilitation at home and that, too, under the monitoring and direction of professional orthopedics and therapists.
"About 95 percent of patients visiting orthopedic departments don't need surgery, so doctors usually prescribe medicines and give certain guidance. Without proper rehabilitation, such people return for medication or consultation weeks or months later," said Dr Lu Yiming, chief medical officer of Shanghai Medmotion Rehabilitation Clinic.
"Post-surgery, patients usually get a piece of paper requiring them to do rehabilitation after returning home. But there are no details on how to do the rehab, the frequency and the strength.
"Every orthopedic surgeon insists on the importance of rehabilitation, which can account for half of the positive effects of a surgery. But a shortage of therapists, low public awareness and the COVID-19 pandemic have had an adverse impact on patients' need for regular and proper rehabilitation."
There are 30 to 70 rehabilitation therapists for every 100,000 people in developed countries. But the figure is a mere 2.6 therapists for every 100,000 Chinese people, the shortage greatly restricting the number of patients who can receive the service. Moreover, the majority of therapists are in big cities, which means patients in rural areas or small cities don't have access to professional rehabilitation guidance.
"Going all the way to a hospital or clinic also takes time and means travelling through traffic or restrictions, like during the pandemic," he added.
Intelligent medicine with technologies like AI and big data is the solution, suggested Lu, whose clinic has just received approval from the National Medical Products Administration, or China's FDA, on a new digital rehabilitation equipment, which allows patients to undergo rehabilitation at home under the direction of professionals.
"After putting all personal information and medical record in the system, our therapists and orthopedists provide online consultation and then the AI system works out a rehabilitation plan, which is reviewed by the doctor. A trial has confirmed that the plans developed by the AI system are 95 percent similar to those from experts in leading public hospitals," Lu revealed.
"Information collected from the system will eventually benefit the clinical practice, improve the ability of AI and offer more information and data to doctors."
The system will subsequently offer videos in line with the patient's condition, choosing from some 200 videos in the database. All the demonstrations in the videos are done by professional therapists.
"With sensors installed on different parts of the body, the system can monitor each gesture of the patient. When the movement is not accurate or fails to meet the standard, the sensors will trigger a vibration and the video will stop until the movement is conducted properly," Lu said.
"The system can collect all data and information for therapists to do evaluation and upgrade in line with the patient's development."
He pointed out that a patient can receive positive results after three months of regular rehabilitation. "For patients with orthopedic surgery, a three-month qualified rehabilitation can help regain primary mobility. With intelligent medicine, rehabilitation is no longer a troublesome and annoying task, and can be done any time at home."
In addition to rehabilitation, orthopedists said intelligent medicine also helps realize individualized treatment.
"Smart medicine is able to make a patient's bones, muscles and joints visible through 3D modeling before surgery. We can have a mirror image of the patient and discuss and try out all plans on the mirror model to help choose the most appropriate surgical format and implants," according to Dr Tan Jun from Shanghai United Family Hospital.
"It is a real reform of medical practice. The 3D surgical guide plate makes surgery much easier and accurate. Doctors just need to put the plate onto the surgical position and make the cut or hole just in line with the plate."
"During surgery, the AR and VR navigation technology are able to guide surgeons to perform the operation more accurately and reduce the possibility of mistake. After surgery, smart medicine allows medics to review the entire process," he added.
In Tan's clinic, the computer system showcases the bones and muscles of a 64-year-old woman with polio. The computer shows the bones of the deformed leg and muscles while comparing them with that of the healthy one.
"Thanks to intelligent technology, we are able to see each bone and each muscle of the patient. It not only makes surgery much easier but also enhances the communication between doctors and patients, who can have a clear view of the surgery plan," Tan noted.