Therapists Can Have Input Into the Technology We Use
Last week I wrote about Dr. Craik's comments that many PTs aren't ready for Vision 2020. Those comments were only one portion of a longer talk on physical therapy. She also spoke about the future of physical therapy and her vision of what is possible for the profession. She encouraged therapists to begin to work with other disciplines such as bio-engineering and researchers. By working with these professions we would have input into the technology and machines we use for therapy.
One of her examples was body weight assisted treadmill training. Anyone who has seen or worked with those treadmills will agree they are bulky and not very user friendly. Dr. Craik suggested that by participating in the development phase we could address some design flaws. I have to agree with her. I love those machines, but using them is labor intensive and time-consuming. Just getting an adequate fit of the harness can take half the treatment.
Another example was the use of electric stimulation on the brain. She pointed out that much of the research is done statically. Yet, humans are dynamic creatures. We are constantly moving in some fashion. She suggested performing therapy during the stimulation sessions. Think of the impact that would have on neurological patients. What if the electricity stimulated a body part to move on command? That could ultimately lead to more rapid changes in motor learning.
PTs are movement specialists. We can't rely on other disciplines to incorporate movement into practice. Engineers know how to make machines move. What we need are machines that incorporate the two concepts into one piece of user-friendly equipment. Over the years I've been exposed to various machines and equipment. It seems like the one's developed by therapists are not only more effective, but easier to use. There's a reason for that.
One of the mottos of my department is to make do with what we have. We end up using things in ways probably not anticipated by the developers. That probably happens in departments all over the country. There needs to be a way of sharing those ideas with each other. We also need to communicate our unique needs to manufactures. They won't build something if they don't know we need it.
There are many good pieces of equipment out there that are underutilized. The obvious reason is cost. The second reason has to be they are too complex. No matter how good a piece of equipment is, it won't be used if it is too complicated. I wonder how much equipment is gathering dust for that very reason.
I would love to tell some manufacturers what I think of equipment. Maybe it's time PTs start doing that. Most companies have sales reps that are available to visit facilities. Talking to sales reps might be a good place to start. If they're not selling equipment or constantly getting called back for training the message will eventually get through. It's a place to start.