Mechatronic Remote Physiotherapy System

IT Sligo has been awarded funding through Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund to develop a novel mechatronic remote physiotherapy system (MRPS).

Dr. Ken Monaghan, Director of the Clinical Health & Nutrition Centre, IT Sligo and David Roberts, Industrial Designer, IT Sligo

IT Sligo has been awarded funding through Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund to develop a novel mechatronic remote physiotherapy system (MRPS).  The MRPS project will design, build and trial a novel remote rehabilitation system that allows neurology e.g. stroke and orthopaedic, post fracture patients, to complete rehabilitation programmes at home under the supervision of an Allied Health Professional. 

Working as a community and rehabilitation physiotherapist for over 30 years, Dr Monaghan knows that keeping patients working remotely can have tremendous benefits. Traditionally, patients lack the opportunity to undertake the required hours of rehabilitation necessary to improve recovery/mobility post stroke. Without supervision, they lack the confidence and motivation to keep their recovery on track. The MRPS will address this issue with a system that allows remote supervision by a therapist. This alleviates psychological limitations to recovery by providing patients with a suite of established strengthening and mirror therapy interventions while providing objective real-time feedback to patients.

Dr Monaghan, the Director of the Clinical Health & Nutrition Centre (CHANCE) and the Head of the Neuroplasticity Research Group in IT Sligo has been developing remote innovative technologies for the past 6 years. Ken has a team of five PhD researchers dedicated to developing innovative new treatments for different clinical conditions including stroke, stuttering/stammering, lymphoedema post breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease and he sees huge potential in this new system.

Ken’s research group was awarded an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Grant of €320,000 towards development of such systems over the coming 2 years. “During earlier research it was difficult to get patients to come to visit the exercise laboratory for clinical trials because they required a family member to transport them over the six weeks of the therapy,” says Dr Monaghan. ‘’We needed to work with patients remotely, allow patients undertake therapy for much longer, and install a concept of control and this was the seed of what is being developed over the last 6 years. In fact, our systems will certainly make an ideal solution to allow patients rehabilitate without having to travel to distant outpatient centres.  This project is coming at a time when adaptations due to COVID are required and this system will remove the requirement of patients to attend outpatient and rehabilitation hospital appointments. We think there’s great potential in all of this but ultimately it’s seeing the quality-of-life improvements in our patients that gives us the greatest motivation,” says Ken. 

Industrial Designer David Roberts from the Faculty of Engineering & Design is tasked with developing the new systems and technology and is currently developing sensory substitution devices and co-ordinating a team of electromechanical, electronic and software engineers towards the development of remote systems. In fact, Dr Monaghan is very fortunate to work in an environment that contains the majority of expertise required for these developments. There will be a new Mobile App and algorithms developed by our UX Designers, gamification-coding and cloud services by our computer scientists, wearable sensors by our Artificial Intelligence, while the development of clinical and educational psychological modules will benefit from the expertise within our Health Science programmes. Enterprise Ireland initially funded a Commercial Case Feasibility Grant of €15,000 to assess the market potential for this device and their Commercial Specialist Dr. Paul Butler has worked hard with Ken’s team over the past 2 years to develop this idea.