Physiotherapists can review patients without having to see them, thanks to wearable technology in the form of smart socks.
University of Melbourne PhD candidate Deepti Aggarwal developed the socks to help patients who struggle to travel to appointments.
The socks are embedded with movement and pressure sensors which provide real-time feedback on the patient’s weight distribution, range of movement and foot orientation, from the patient’s lower limb movements.
The socks could come in handy for physiotherapists, who need to closely observe subtle changes in a patient’s movement, especially in the lower limbs.
Such changes would be difficult to detect in video consultation, another alternative to face-to-face care, especially for patients (for example, in rural areas) who don’t live in close proximity to the specialist, and those who have difficulties moving.
Mark Bradford, a physiotherapist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, noted that the smart socks provide information health workers might not get during video consultations.
He added that the technology’s visual depiction of movement and weight distribution helps patients monitor their progress and encourages them to continue with rehabilitation.
However, Aggarwal said that the innovation is a complement rather than a replacement for face-to-face consultations. The idea is to have a couple of face-to-face consultations, and a couple of video reviews aided by the smart sock technology.
Smart sock technology could also come in handy for patients with foot injuries, elderly people, and pregnant women who may not be able to travel regularly for face-to-face care.
The socks which cost about Sh30,000 to make are not available for sale, but the innovator hopes that companies will come on board to develop smart socks for medical use and drive down the price.