The potential of AI to fight musculoskeletal disorders and improve healthcare systems

Updated: May 12


MSK Disorders

















Our healthcare systems are being overstretched. Medical science is improving, with new discoveries, treatments, medicines, and accessibility, its impact can be seen from the rising life expectancy around the world. By 2050, one in six people will be over the age of 65, and within Europe and North America, that number increases to one in four[1]. The increase in elderly compounded by a change in modern work and lifestyle habits results in musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders becoming more prevalent.


Within the EU workforce alone, three out of every five report MSK-related complaints[2]. Moreover, approximately 1.7 billion people of all ages suffer from MSK conditions worldwide. Such figures are rapidly rising[3] due to general population increase and ageing, as well as unfit ergonomic solutions in an ever more sedentary society[4]. In turn, this means that the healthcare system must deal with a much higher percentage of complicated needs, needs that are more expensive and time-consuming. Thus, we face even higher demand for our healthcare and action needs to be taken.


Approximately 1.7 billion people of all ages suffer from MSK conditions worldwide. Such figures are rapidly rising due to general population increase and ageing. (WHO)

So, what are the options? Undeniably, there is a need for a shift in patient management and treatment options. This shift will mitigate the pressure and develop the healthcare system’s ability to handle our changing populations; a change due both to age, but also due to altering lifestyle choices, and patient expectations.


We need to find ways to optimize our healthcare in a scalable way. One solution is using artificial intelligence (AI) to alleviate the pressure.



What is AI and what areas of healthcare can it change for the better?


Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term used to describe any technique that allows computers to simulate human intelligence[5]. Innovation within this field can have broad applications as well as positive impacts on our healthcare systems. AI can assist in the optimization and efficiency of administrative tasks, in addition, there is an opportunity for innovation in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options.

AI can alleviate the pressure of the people working in the healthcare field, freeing more time for patient care by optimizing administration responsibilities. In 2018, 32% of physicians in the US reported spending more than 20 hrs per week on administrative tasks and paperwork[6]. AI can also help improve diagnosis time and support technology with preventative measures. By freeing up time, better decisions are made, and improved care can be delivered.


There is an extensive opportunity to help patients become active in their health management.

However, merely creating space for physicians to give better care is not the only attribute AI technology can bring to the table. With the digital development within our society and the increased prevalence of wearable sensors (ranging from medical sensors to your everyday fitness watches), there is an extensive opportunity to help patients become active in their health management.[7] Likewise, this digitalization opens accessibility, the flexibility of the location for care, leading to earlier treatment and establishing preventative measures. This leads to more independent patients who can safely monitor their health progress, and in turn, alleviate the demand on healthcare systems.



Self-care, prevention, wellness, and chronic care management


Selfcare, prevention, and chronic care management can become an active part of a patient's life with the use of artificial intelligence. With mobile phones and other devices becoming a ubiquitous part of our society, there is an extensive potential to integrate preventative habits within people's day-to-day lives.


Musculoskeletal conditions affect all ages and are one of the leading contributors to disability word wide[3]. MSKs are known to limit mobility and dexterity and can lead to chronic pain, early retirement, reduced health, and hinder the ability to partake in society[3]. Although MSK disorders are often encountered, they are often not properly treated and cause huge expenses including lost working days[4]. People affected by these conditions can have difficulties reaching a physician either due to limited mobility or access, as well as delaying their initial visit fearing that the treatment will be worse than the problem[8].


Musculoskeletal conditions affect all ages and are one of the leading contributors to disability word wide.

Short-term solutions like opioid anaesthetics and avoidable surgery are frequently used instead of preventative measures and physical therapy[4]. Many patients are also not adequately tracked and finally readmitted with declined functions or other complications that may no longer be reversible. The patient is often moving from one specialist to another with no clear tracking and status of the condition[9]. There is a detrimental lack of sustainable solutions available to patients and clinicians alike to enable a holistic approach to prevention, (self-) monitoring, and treatment of chronic MSK-related disorders. As a result, longer diagnosis periods and sub-optimal treatment ensue. This shows how important it is to develop AI-driven technologies for self-management and setting up an infrastructure for a long-term, independent, personalized solution. It is here, the exciting potential for innovation within AI lies.



Computer Vision and its innovation potential


There are many forms of artificial intelligence; here we will specifically consider the use and impact of computer vision and its potential in the health space. Computer vision is the technology of training computers to replicate human sight, thus allowing the computer to understand the objects in view, with the ability to analyse those images[10].


When looking at the whole patient journey, there are application possibilities in all areas from prevention and diagnosis to treatment. By incorporating computer vision in health and fitness applications correct alignment can be enforced, resulting in the prevention of injuries and promotion of healthy physical activity. With the analytical potential of computer vision, specifically human motion analysis, early diagnosis is possible by recognizing imbalances or deviations with physical movements or allowing for assistance to a specialist by granting access to movement data. Lastly, human motion analysis can be integrated within treatment, allowing for accessibility to virtual physical therapy where the computer vision would ensure correct movements to help with the recovery.


Human motion analysis can be integrated within treatment, allowing for accessibility to virtual physical therapy where the computer vision would ensure correct movements to help with the recovery.

The VAY technology within computer vision and human motion analysis with live feedback can be applied in the treatment of MSKs. With the current focus on developing their technology to serve the patients more personalized, it would result in flexible treatment and health monitoring options. VAY has the potential to provide clinicians with a better understanding of their patients’ rehab progress and overall fitness by tracking, understanding, and analysing their patients' movements.


As countries progressively recognize the need to upgrade their current healthcare systems and embrace digital health therapeutic technologies, VAY, aware of the unmet needs to offer measurable and more personalized virtual care for people suffering from MSK conditions, is poised to support new forms of virtual health.



Announcing VAYs partnership with RESC


There is an evident need for innovation and progress, as the digitalisation of healthcare adds further complexity (data security, changing business models, etc.) to the already multi-layered systems. Only agile organisations with contemporary business structures will be able to successfully establish digital healthcare. Universities, research centres and start-ups will play a major role in developing innovative solutions whereas competence centres are trying to establish networks between industries, service providers, funding agencies incl. health care insurances, politics, etc. Consequently, VAY is proud to announce its partnership with the Competence Centre for Rehabilitation Engineering and Science[9] at ETH Zurich. RESC hosts and expands a network platform for innovative solutions in the field of prevention, therapy, assistance, and inclusion. Specifically, RESC promotes interdisciplinary research and exchange, contemporary education programmes, and knowledge transfer to facilitate an integrated and holistic rehabilitation approach.


VAY can provide a key part for the implementation of remote prevention and rehabilitation services, which makes the company of high interest to the RESC network. (Oliver Stoller, RESC)

Considering the need for remote treatment and care options, VAY can provide a key part in the implementation of innovative services, which makes the company of high interest to the RESC network. VAY’s technology provides essential solutions in the field of remote monitoring, user and patient accountability, personalization, and independence. With the help of RESC, VAY can further develop its technology to produce a high-quality and certified product, to contribute to clinically effective and reliable digital health applications. We see a great alignment between VAY’s and RESCs missions — together towards personalized, long-term, independent prevention and rehabilitation services.



Have more questions? Get in touch with Ben -> ben@vay.ai










Sources:

[1] https://eithealth.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EIT-Health-and-McKinsey_Transforming-Healthcare-with-AI.pdf

[2] https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/msds-facts-and-figures-overview-prevalence-costs-and-demographics-msds-europe

[3] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/musculoskeletal-conditions

[4] https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/evaluating-musculoskeletal-digital-health-apps [5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6706287/

[6] https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2018-compensation-overview-6009667#33

[7] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40141-018-0172-2

[9] https://resc.ethz.ch/the-competence-centre/vision-and-mission.html


[10] https://healthtechmagazine.net/article/2019/01/computer-vision-healthcare-what-it-can- offer-providers-perfcon



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