2012 Ganey Research Award

 

James Schmiedeler

​ND Newswire, April 11, 2012

 

More than 60 individuals in the local area have already benefited from a new technological innovation developed through a collaboration between Dr. James Schmiedeler and his Notre Dame colleagues and the therapy staff at Memorial Hospital. That innovation is called “WeHab” and uses the Nintendo WiiFit platform to assist individuals who, as a result of strokes, accidents, or illness, experience weakness, paralysis, or impairments in balance and mobility.


The WeHab Balance Rehabilitation System that has resulted from Professor Schmiedeler’s efforts is an innovative, low-cost tool for providing biofeedback and data monitoring during balance therapy. The WeHab system facilitates common rehab activities and measures patient performance in real-time. In the clinic, it helps therapists improve rehab efficacy and objectively assess patient progress without taking time away from rehab activities. Once patients go home, the low cost makes individual access affordable; the WeHab system can provide biofeedback during prescribed at-home activities and monitor patient compliance through progress reports.


“I would indeed define the work done to develop this Wii application within health care as a collaborative effort,” says Johan Kuitse, outpatient clinical manager for Memorial and the first person Schmiedeler approached about a possible collaboration between Notre Dame and the hospital. “ Whereas the University of Notre Dame, as represented by Jim and his team, provided the technical knowledge necessary for the project, the therapy staff at Memorial provided the clinical and practical knowledge necessary ... We could most certainly not have modified the Wii for rehabilitation purposes, and it would have been similarly difficult for Jim and his group to cre- ate an application which could be effectively used to assist in the rehabilitation of those who have suffered an injury, accident or have survived an illness which has caused them ... impairments in balance ...”


The results of the work done are currently in use in Memorial Hospital’s inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation setting. As development progresses, the product will become available on a commercial basis, and other healthcare facilities will be able to use the application at their sites. A significant opportunity will be available for private use clients, thus increasing the penetration of the product into this and other communities.


“I think the ability of WeHab to take rehabilitation into the patient’s home is most exciting” says Dr. Kuitse. “As therapy visits become more limited due to payor restrictions and cost concerns, the need for effective home programs becomes more important.”


According to Schmiedeler’s Notre Dame colleague and co-investigator Charles Crowell, “WeHab has the potential to revolutionize stroke therapy for patients, both in the clinic and at home ... The utility of this technology may be extended to other rehabilitation domains involving orthopedic problems resulting from injuries, amputations, or aging, applications that currently are being explored.”


Crowell notes, “Professor Schmiedeler’s groundbreaking work on WeHab has set the stage for a truly impactful and widespread rehabilitation service, not just for our local community, but also for communities all around the world.”

 

A tenured professor with an impressive record of research and scholarship in several fields including robotic assisted rehabilitation and the dynamics of bipedal walking motion, Schmiedeler has also published on WeHab, in an interdisciplinary effort that included Notre Dame faculty from several departments and expertise from the local community. Schmiedeler, his graduate student Michael Kennedy, and co-investigators Aaron Striegel, University of Notre Dame professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; Charles Crowell and Michael Villano, of Notre Dame’s psychol- ogy department; and Johan Kuitse of Memorial Hospital, authored the paper “Enhanced Feedback in Balance Rehabilitation using the Nintendo Wii Balance Board,” published in the Proceedings of the 2011 IEEE Healthcom Conference on Technology Enabled Personalized Medicine. The paper won the conference’s best full paper award. Dr. Schmiedeler is principal investigator for a grant proposal that recently was awarded three years of research support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for continued work on WeHab.