UC study looks to develop a smartphone app to prevent falls

University PhD candidate Hafsa Ismail is investigating an alternative method using inexpensive video equipment to produce a new walk assessment tool that could prevent falls. Photo: Georgina Connery Video footage and data from the expensive force plate is collated and analysed. Photo: Georgina Connery
Nanjing Night Net

University PhD candidate Hafsa Ismail is investigating an alternative method using inexpensive video equipment to produce a new walk assessment tool that could prevent falls. Photo: Georgina Connery

Tens of thousands of elderly Australians are hospitalised each year for fall-related injuries but a new University of Canberra PhD study hopes to put prevention in the palm of people’s hands.

University PhD candidate Hafsa Ismail has to firstly investigate whether video can replace the the need for expensive and cumbersome force plate walking assessments.

The project aims to create a computer program or a smartphone app which could be used by older people to capture changes to their walking, gait and balance through their smartphone camera.

Over time, it would alert them or their carers to changes in the way they walk that might mean an increasing risk of suffering a fall.

“Clinicians now are using video to look back at movement but they also use a force plate in their assessment – a tool which costs about $50,000 and weighs between 20 to 30 kilograms,” she said.

“The idea is we can do the same assessment without the force plate. The main goal with the research is to have an app that can do the analysis from the movement on the video.”

Professor Roland Goecke is supervising Ms Ismail’s study and said it harnessed accessible technologies to improve healthcare access and would hopefully reduce the likelihood of falls.

“What we are interested in is three months in advance whether we can notice changes in people’s gait and sway so that there is enough time to put an exercise regime in place to counterbalance those changes so people don’t even have a fall,” he said.

Professor Goecke said the app would be a “set and forget style tool” and likely work by placing the smartphone on a dock or single spot and having the user pace past the camera.

It’s hoped portability and ease of use will allow the tool to be used in the home or in aged care facilities and end the era of booking on site appointments for regular walking assessments.

Ms Ismail is calling for 50 participants aged 50 years and over to get involved in the three stages of monitoring set three months apart.

Judith Wimborne, 77, has just begun monitoring sessions and said she had been mindful of her stability since she had a nasty fall tripping over something while walking hurriedly last year.

Ms Wimborne hoped taking part in the study would see the handy app developed rolled out for use very soon.

“I use my phone a lot so the app would be helpful,” she said. “The health field is full of things that cost a lot of money so if you can have something simple like this it could be so much better.”

People interested in participating in the research can contact Ms Ismail on [email protected]论坛.UC PhD candidate Hasfa Ismail is testing participants like Judith Wimborne to find smarter tools for falls prevention @canberratimespic.twitter南京夜网/9Q3TOEHdPM??? Georgina Connery (@georginaconnery) February 23, 2017This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.