Late Breaking News
VA Improves Staff Training, Technology for Prosthetics Cont.
- Categorized in: August 2011, Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Rehabilitation, Trauma
The next step in the technology will take prosthetics from the realm of product to that of service. Miller is currently on the lookout for technology or proposals that could be considered “smart prosthetics.” While the term may suggest a high-tech way of controlling the limb, it actually refers to prosthetics that gather information about the wearer while in use.
“These prosthetics will give us information about the patient. What is the temperature of their limb? How many steps are they taking? Is the patient using the prosthetic? Has the patient fallen down?” Miller explains. “It’s something that can give us feedback about the environment or the condition of the patient. That’s the next step.”
“We’re looking for those types of technology to enhance the quality of care, to move it beyond just an item. It would be providing a health care service,” he says.
One of VA’s major initiatives is the increased use of telemedicine to improve veteran care. While most telehealth systems involve a patient using a telephone line to communicate with physicians, this type of telehealth program would provide similar health data on the patient but require little or no effort on their part. It could upload data wirelessly at timed intervals, transmitting records of when the patient puts it on, takes it off, how hard the limb is being used or if the patient has any difficulty in using it.
That data not only measures the health of patients but also provides general data on users of prosthetic devices. “We need to understand how different health comorbidities affect veteran care,” Miller says. “For example, if somebody is obese, does it take our clinicians more or less time to provide an item? And how does obesity affect the number of visits and length of care. We’re looking at drafting a research protocol for that area.”
This step from device to service would represent a serious shift in the mindset of prosthetics care, and it is a shift that Miller knows will not happen overnight. “We’re not advocating for complete change tomorrow,” he says. “But I think there are a lot of people talking about this profession and its methodologies.”