UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Perspectives on the prospective development of stroke-specific lower extremity wearable monitoring technology: a qualitative focus group study with physical therapists and individuals with stroke Louie, Dennis R; Bird, Marie-Louise; Menon, Carlo; Eng, Janice


Background: Wearable activity monitors that track step count can increase the wearer’s physical activity and motivation but are infrequently designed for the slower gait speed and compensatory patterns after stroke. New and available technology may allow for the design of stroke-specific wearable monitoring devices, capable of detecting more than just step counts, which may enhance how rehabilitation is delivered. The objective of this study was to identify important considerations in the development of stroke-specific lower extremity wearable monitoring technology for rehabilitation, from the perspective of physical therapists and individuals with stroke. Methods: A qualitative research design with focus groups was used to collect data. Five focus groups were conducted, audio recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed using content analysis to generate overarching categories representing the stakeholder considerations for the development of stroke-specific wearable monitor technology for the lower extremity. Results: A total of 17 physical therapists took part in four focus group discussions and three individuals with stroke participated in the fifth focus group. Our analysis identified four main categories for consideration: 1) ‘Variability’ described the heterogeneity of patient presentation, therapy approaches, and therapeutic goals that are taken into account for stroke rehabilitation; 2) ‘Context of use’ described the different settings and purposes for which stakeholders could foresee employing stroke-specific wearable technology; 3) ‘Crucial design features’ identified the measures, functions, and device characteristics that should be considered for incorporation into prospective technology to enhance uptake; and 4) ‘Barriers to adopting technology’ highlighted challenges, including personal attitudes and design flaws, that may limit the integration of current and future wearable monitoring technology into clinical practice. Conclusions: The findings from this qualitative study suggest that the development of stroke-specific lower extremity wearable monitoring technology is viewed positively by physical therapists and individuals with stroke. While a single, specific device or function may not accommodate all the variable needs of therapists and their clients, it was agreed that wearable monitoring technology could enhance how physical therapists assess and treat their clients. Future wearable devices should be developed in consideration of the highlighted design features and potential barriers for uptake.

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