Remote patient monitoring and the measurement of human body movement are increasingly becoming a vital part of how physicians, therapists, and other healthcare providers diagnose, monitor, treat and prevent chronic diseases.
Parker Hannifin’s new FlexSense is a vital sensing technology that enables sophisticated new innovations to become reality in wearable tech for health care applications. FlexSense is being integrated into medical applications such as compression therapy, orthopedics, physical therapy and fall reduction. These applications help improve patient outcomes,reduce healthcare costs, provide independent living choices for an aging population and encourage patients to assume a more active role in their care.
FlexSense is a stretchable, compressible, wearable, and wireless sensor technology designed to deliver medically precise human body motion measurements. The sensors are customizable for wearable applications in athletics, health, and wellness. The form, function and physical properties of the sensors are customized according to application requirements for use on textiles such as shoes, socks, insoles, and shirts.
“We are just scratching the surface on the innovations that FlexSense can enable,” said Tim Mannchen, EAP Market Development Manager at Parker. “Anywhere precise measurement of human body movement is needed, is where we will excel. We have had several customers approach us after their innovation aspirations were not achievable with alternative sensing technologies. After Parker engineers and FlexSense technology were applied to the problem, sophisticated new-to-the-world applications have been successfully completed and brought to market.”
“As several years’ worth of natural market evolution in telehealth adoption took place in only months during the pandemic, we believe patients, providers and payers will continue to adopt digital health technology; including wearables Remote patient monitoring (RPM) in particular presents many opportunities to improve outcomes, reduce costs and support care-at-home models that will become so important in the future.”
“For example, we envision patients with chronic disease such as heart failure helping to improve their own outcomes by being an active participant in monitoring their own weight change and swelling with wearables equipped with FlexSense technology.”
FlexSense sensors are made of a silicon-based material and conductive ink that can withstand use environments including heat, cold, and moisture. The sensors are soft, flexible, conformable, and durable and can be used as a stretch or pressure sensor, rapidly capturing precise measurements of movement.
Healthcare – Reducing falling among the elderly
FlexSense technology has been incorporated into insoles, which perform assessments of the wearer’s ability to balance and walk. Based on the data collected during the assessment, the application guides the patient through at-home exercises that enhance gait and balance capability. In patient trials this application has been shown to help reduce the incidence of falling by up to 24 percent.
Healthcare – Predicting, Preventing and Rehabilitating Injury
FlexSense is a difference-making sensing technology that enables the most advanced Musculoskeletal (MSK) solution available in digital health. Joint movement plus soft tissue movement is measured from temporarily worn sensors, providing a complete picture of MSK health that has not been possible before without expensive imaging studies. The application can identify future injury possibility, provide injury-preventing exercise regimes and measure progress during rehabilitation from orthopedic injury.
Athletics – Measuring breathing performance
A company is leveraging FlexSense technology for its new “smart shirt” that athletes wear during exercise to measure respiration. The application provides exercise coaching that improves aerobic and anaerobic breathing as a means to improve athletic performance. In the past, measurement of aerobic and anerobic breathing was available to elite athletes using laboratory-based equipment. Now, thanks in part to FlexSense, this becomes available as wearable technology at a fraction of the cost.
Healthcare – Remotely monitoring heart failure patients
Another potential application is a Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) tool for heart failure patients. Sensors embedded in textiles could monitor critical symptoms associated with heart failure, like weight change and swelling. By gaining access to this information much earlier during the period when the patient’s symptoms are declining, providers can react sooner with treatment that can often be provided on an outpatient basis before the patient’s condition worsens to the point where costly hospitalizations and emergency room visits are necessary.