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According to Pablo Lopez’s mom Veronica, her son has been positively ebullient since he got his new car. He’ll even wake her, she says, excited to get behind the wheel and take it for a spin.

A kid being excited about his ride isn’t exactly news, until you consider a few key factors. First, Pablo isn’t yet 16. Second, Pablo suffers from Spina Bifida, a birth defect resulting in deformation in the vertebrae and spinal column. As a result, Pablo’s lower trunk and legs are extremely weak.

The car that he’s been cruising around in isn’t of a make or model you’ll find on any showroom floor. Rather, it’s an important tool helping Pablo build his strength while having fun. And it was all made possible by a student-led organization called GoBabyGo@IU.

“GoBabyGo is program that modifies electric children’s vehicles for kiddos with disabilities of all kinds,” says Michael Mohr, a Ph. D. student in the Indiana University Physical Therapy Program at IUPUI and the group’s co-founder. “The idea is to turn them into cost-effective therapeutic vehicles for these kids.”

When a child is referred to GoBabyGo@IU, which is an offshoot of a program started at the University of Delaware, their needs are assessed and goals are set by a professional physical therapist. The GoBabyGo team of physical therapy and engineering students then go about designing a vehicle that will challenge target areas. That could mean a modified seat that encourages standing and leg strength or a dual starter/accelerator system to hone coordination. And, thanks to generous donations and volunteer support, GoBabyGo is able to offer these vehicles free of charge.

Dr. Sara Davis, the primary physical therapist for GoBabyGo@IU, says seeing the excitement and motivation the children gain from their newfound independence has been incredibly rewarding.

“Physical therapy, especially in the pediatric realm is predominately very clinical,” explains Davis. “It gets monotonous for children. By having some kind of an alternative vehicle or some other way to participate in therapy, it gives them a whole new outlook on how to participate in therapy.”

The benefits of physical therapy are not limited merely to structural improvements in a child’s body, says Davis, but have far-reaching effects on the whole of the person. Crawling, for example, necessitates the use of both sides of the body and thus communication between both sides of the brain. And, when a child is mobile, they can explore, and learn more about, their world.

Children also benefit from the increased interaction with their peers that GoBabyGo vehicles grant them. The freedom to play allows them to form bonds and friendship, build trust and cultivate interpersonal skills.

Davis happily notes that Pablo’s new ride has been turning heads and made him the toast of his school when the GoBabyGo team delivered it. “He absolutely had the biggest smile on his face. He wanted to go show every teacher what he was doing, how he was standing, how he was driving the car and all of his friends wanted to see it. They all wanted to go for a ride.”

 

GoBabyGo@IU co-founders Michael Mohr and Andrew Wiseman working on a modified car.

IUPUI physical therapy students and GoBabyGo@IU co-founders Michael Mohr and Andrew Wiseman work on Pablo’s car.

Pablo’s car has proved so popular, in fact, that he’s already had to bring it into the shop for repairs.

“He used the vehicle so much that he ended up breaking it,” says Andrew Wiseman, GoBabyGo@IU’s other co-founder, cheerfully. “We realized that we were going to need some big changes because he was putting a lot of force into it [as] he was getting stronger.”

On the horizon, Mohr, Davis, Wiseman and the rest of the GoBabyGo team are working to grow the organization such that it can fulfill the overwhelming amount of requests they’ve received. They’ve also started a series of GoBabyGo community days that bring together children, their vehicles and their families for a day of recreation and bonding, and are hoping to expand that aspect of the program.

“The social development side is kind of the end goal,” says Wiseman. “Having the kids play and interact with their peers is just amazing.”



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The Promise of Big Data in the Rehabilitation Arena


By Cher Zevala

In the field of rehabilitation there has been an influx in the sheer volume of healthcare data being gathered. Yet what remains lacking is a set of standards to guide the most effective processes for collecting that data, manipulating it, analyzing it, and applying it in ways that benefit the profession and its clients. As a result, most practitioners are taking a more experimental approach to working with data, and addressing the opportunities and challenges this new paradigm presents.

Paradigm Change

The first step in gaining a clearer picture of the promise of big data and its potential for the arena of rehabilitation is to consider the opportunities big data represents for a rehab practice. A noticeable shift occurring as a result of big data is a widespread change in thinking from looking at causes and responses to taking a focus on the correlations between variables. Typically the methods used for data analysis compare data to existing knowledge. Conclusions are drawn subsequently based on that comparison.

A good illustration of this process can be taken from the banking industry, for which data analysis is commonly used in fraud detection. For example, when a bank customer’s debit card is used to make a purchase, the characteristics of that purchase are compared to vast amounts of data associated with fraudulent purchases, including the customer’s own purchasing patterns. If a particular number of markers is identified, the bank may contact the customer to confirm the purchase and, when necessary, decline the transaction. Those same principles can be applied to healthcare. For example, a patient’s condition can be compared to data related to other patients with similar symptoms and, thus, a treatment plan may be devised.

There is another advantage to be had by adopting a data-mining perspective. That advantage is simply this: by focusing on correlations instead of causations, healthcare clinicians can search for patterns within sets of data that may spur new ideas and treatment protocols. Though the idea of managing that data may sound daunting the reality is that identifying those patterns may actually become easier with the existence of electronic health records, electronic clinical outcome assessments in research and clinical trials, and insurance claims. New methods of working with the data will emerge that will, in turn, create even more opportunities to improve a practice. Following are what a few of those opportunities might look like:

• Improved communication with patients. One of the most common questions patients ask is, “How long will treatment take?” Data mining can be used to compare similar patients to develop effective treatments. It can also better estimate the duration of therapy, the pain or difficulty that may be experienced, and how to avoid setbacks.

• Establish measurable goals. Big data provides evidence of measurable outcomes in rehab—information that therapists can use to establish patient goals and improve the method and speed with which those goals are met. Though more efficient care costs are reduced and patient satisfaction improves.

• Better provider skill sets. By comparing a particular facility’s performance against national and local performance patterns can be identified in strengths and weaknesses. That information can be applied in the creation of employee development plans that can help improve a practice’s overall performance.

These prospects engender excitement, yet for all of the opportunities of big data significant challenges remain.

Managing Big Data

One of the major challenges to using big data to its greatest advantage in rehabilitation is that it is relatively new and there are not yet prescribed standards for the collection and use of the data. That is all changing, but other challenges remain for providers.

• Determining the best tools for data collection. The question is no longer whether a practice should use an electronic medical record, but rather which medical record should be used to best match the practice. Understanding how well the system can retrieve and use data from all of the sources that are collecting data is also vital to consider. Data must be available in usable, comparable formats before it can be useful.

• Putting data to work. In the new healthcare environment rehab practitioners must prove that they are improving outcomes. Providing healthcare is no longer about seeing as many patients as possible to collect higher reimbursements. Data can help with this, but only when providers use the data they collect to better inform treatment. PTP

Cher Zevala is a content coordinator specializing in topics associated with the healthcare industry and innovations in the healthcare field. She is also a contributing writer to Physical Therapy Products. For more information, contact PTPEditor@nullallied360.com.



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