July 2021

Making the “New Normal” a “Smarter Normal”

A patient with Parkinson’s disease is dancing so his physical therapist can assess his disease status during
COVID-19 pandemic.

By Philip Stotter, CEP

The times are definitely changing and will continue to change for the better. As the rest of the world pulls down their masks, we in the medical community will continue to stay masked, prepared, and ready for change.

When we hear the words “the new normal” most of us see this as a negative connotation. But for the medical community embracing a new normal has always been on the forefront for how to improve and move medicine forward. However, the healthcare community is typically slow to make dramatic shifts in care, unless forced to do so.

With the so-called bad, comes the good. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us in the medical community to find alternative answers to solving and maintaining the consistency and continuum of patient care as it forced the separation of human contact as much as possible. At the same time, almost overnight, our healthcare ecosystem took action to provide care for those in need and expanded access through telehealth at a scale never seen before. For instance, in my personal world of physical rehabilitation, doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other allied providers like me had to find – or discover – technologies that would connect us to our patients. Zoom and other teleconferencing services became the rehab highway that would create the “new normal” for patient care. Like Zoom, other digital technologies were used at a rate that would have never been believed before this pandemic. The once rarely used connected health platform became the only way to link to patients.

New ideas, technologies, and research sprung out of this forced distancing world and these innovations would come to redefine the patient care equation. The pandemic forced the hand of the medical community to find new and better ways to practice. It was time to become “smarter,” at least in terms of patient care technology.

I, like so many clinical technology innovators, took part in this digital expansion of smart technologies. The new technologies would provide the clinical/medical industry tools appropriate for the changing times. Thanks to a stronger focus on contactless technology, artificial intelligence (AI)–led interventions and predictive data analysis tools now allow doctors and other rehab specialists to remotely assess risks and provide better care for each individual patient as never before.

Medicine has always been data driven, but now we were leaning more heavily on this data to help with decision making. I personally had already started to address patient care workflow problems pre-pandemic with the use of an AI-led technology focused on the test/treat intervention process with a concentration on limited personal contact without compromising effectiveness. Now, as a result  of COVID-19, I helped to integrate a “smart tool” that provides AI-led test/treat intervention with predictive analysis that helps connect patients to more accurate and patient-centric courses of action. This has proven to be effective in disciplines not even of focus. In cardiac rehab, sensory balance testing has been added because of the lack of physical activity and the age-related connection of fall risk to heart health. The exercise physiologists (EPs) who work in this area were not equipped to conduct tests that are typically used in neurology and other disciplines. With the use of this AI-led test/treat technology, EPs can now administer tests such as the Clinical Test of Sensory Interaction on Balance or 4-Stage Balance Test and be guided and supported to calls of actions. Plus, they can save time with the use of an automated connected-care home exercise platform (HEP) built in. Also, in geriatrics and senior health, this simple-to-use technology can screen for fall risk and, if detected, suggest proven clinical pathways to lessen the risk. The pandemic increased falls by upward of 30% in senior living communities and this same technology has been proven to help secure a safe transfer from quarantine to a return-to-active-life strategy.

Many technologies were born out of need during the COVID-19 crisis, but to keep progressing we need to continue to embrace what was forced on us through the pandemic as well as continue to use these patient care and connected technologies. AI in healthcare allows us to diagnose more effectively, create more personalized treatment plans, and automate healthcare tasks. Automated connective HEP tools can lessen the workload of rehabilitation specialists and utilizing smart technologies that could be used by anyone, anywhere was at the forefront of this innovation.

This new trend of AI-supported telehealth for those who can get the help they need without physically going to the doctor’s office became the problem to solve and will continue to be the path for future technologies. We live in a world of immediate service and healthcare cannot be the exception.

As it’s typically stated, we can only learn through hard times and the pandemic was no exception. But what we learned was using technology to connect and treat patients soared us ahead farther than we would have ever reached without the pandemic. The question now will be, “Can we continue to move and adapt as fast as we did last year for the years to come?”. The key will be seizing this window of opportunity before we inadvertently slip back into old practices, the familiar comfort zone. We have seen that necessity is the mother of invention, and a “smarter normal” is a better normal.

Philip Stotter, CEP, is a veteran clinical exercise physiologist turned inventor/business developer, and the Visionary and Founder behind Stotter Technologies, Moflex, AA360, and others. As a practitioner, researcher, and educator, Philip has over 25 years of experience in performance, corrective and preventative clinical, and sports settings. He is currently one of the top human biomechanics and ground force experts in the world. Philip focuses his work on ground mechanics and how to use technology to augment the test/treat or test/train intervention process. His most recent venture is as Director of Sports Science for V1 Sports, the leader in video analysis and ground pressure software to capture, review, and analyze athletic movement.

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