Pervasive Rehab: The Rehab Facility as an Enabler for Healing

Physical rehabilitation is one of the most costly and prolonged health care regimens. It is needed for the rest of the patient’s life in some cases, and requires equipment, extended care, and continuous staff involvement. Inpatient rehab hospitals deliver rehabilitation to those with various neurological, musculo-skeletal, and orthopedic conditions upon stabilizing their acute medical issue caused by accidents, strokes, or other incidents. But due to staff and resource restrictions, inpatients do not get more than two hours of therapy a day. That not only means 22 hours/day the patients spend idle, but also prolonged recovery times and compound costs. Moreover, healthcare plans usually cover only up to 90-100 day in-hospital stay per patient.

Building upon the premise of emerging ubiquitous computing paradigms embedded in indoor environments, this project proposes a conceptual framework and implementation scenarios whereby the rehab facility shifts role from merely a container of people, machines, and therapy equipment to playing an active role in patient therapy and progress monitoring. In such facility, patients and building components are all equipped with RFID tags that communicate with each other as well as with the patients’ profiles on a cloud database over Wi-Fi. By embedding sensors and actuators, and inducing awareness of the patients and their current mental and physical health states, building surfaces can detect, act, react, register, assist, elicit therapy, and even prevent patient accidents as illustrated in the scenarios section.

This interactive model ameliorates conventional therapy with at least three new attributes. First, the patient interaction with various building surfaces and components becomes a form of self-motivated exercise driven by rewards and/or successful completion of meaningful tasks. By accomplishing a variety of useful tasks (opening a door or climbing a flight of stairs rather than seemingly repetitive and pointless exercises), the patient therapy extends beyond the two-hour slot covered by the healthcare provider.  Second, by enlisting the building to passively monitor the activities the patient engages in throughout the day, meaningful data is collected, aggregated, stored in a cloud, and analyzed to capture progress and relapses without staff involvement. An accurate patient portfolio is thus always available, share-able, and up to date. Finally, by introducing monitoring and therapy capacities in building surfaces, every surface ends up serving a double or triple function, rendering underutilized spaces (walls, ceilings, floors) useful, and maximizing the return on investment.