The Kinect finds a second life helping rehab patients heal at home

The Microsoft Kinect may be more or less defunct when it comes to gaming, but it’s getting a second life as a medical device. Reflexion Health uses it as part of the kit it delivers to rehabilitation patients, so they can do physical therapy exercises at home with every knee bend or wrist turn captured on camera.

“The notion of being able to do their physical therapy in their jammies with no one around, that feels like a wonderful thing,” Dr. Joe Smith, the company’s CEO, told Digital Trends. He describes himself as a “geeky engineer turned geeky doctor.” The Vera Solution uses the Kinect’s infrared and motion-capture technology, along with feedback from an avatar and clinicians. And it’s no game: The system is FDA-approved and certified as a Class II medical device.

Before surgery, patients receive the kit. It comes with a 4G SIM card, as some senior patients don’t have Wi-Fi. “We make a ton of measurements,” said Dr. Smith. “We’re estimating joint position and angle and limb velocity 30 times a second, so we can do a pretty good job of the level of disability that patients have pre-operatively.” Right now, Vera is mainly used for people who’ve had hip or knee replacements. Post-op, the doctor can prescribe exercises from a broad list of options.

If a patient completes 14 of the 15 exercises, the doctor or physical therapist can watch the video of the skipped exercise. Maybe it’s causing too much pain or it’s too complicated. Either way, the clinician can teleconference in through the system to talk to the patient.

Thus far, about 600 patients have used the Vera system. “Patients are much more compliant to their prescribed physical therapy regimen than anyone’s ever been able to demonstrate previously,” said Dr. Smith. He said self-reported rates range between 15 to 40 percent, while patients using the Kinect complete between 75 to 80 percent of their exercises. Whether they feel beholden to the anthropomorphized avatar Vera or just know their doctor is watching, Dr. Smith said participants show up for their in-home appointments. It also means patients don’t have to rely on getting a ride to an appointment and doctors can focus on those who need the most help.

Reflexion is branching out beyond physical therapy, too. It’s part of Digital Health Corp., which On May 31 announced the acquisition of Constant Therapy, a firm that develops apps for traumatic brain injury, stroke, aphasia, and learning-disorder patients.

“It’s incredibly valuable to be a with a good physical therapist or occupational therapist or cognitive speech-language therapist, but they can only spend so much time,” said Dr. Smith. ‘There’s nothing higher on your priority list than getting better and you’ve got lots of time in front of you. Our goal is to give you tools to help you do something in the interim that may accelerate your recovery or get to a higher plateau.”