Participatory action design and engineering of a manual wheelchair virtual coach including in-home and community usage

J Spinal Cord Med. 2022 Aug 22:1-14. doi: 10.1080/10790268.2022.2107352. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Current clinical practice guidelines (CPG) recommend periodic pressure redistribution (PR) to alter sitting pressure and reduce the risk of developing pressure injuries (PI). Individuals who have strength and trunk stability are asked to perform PR such as wheelies, leaning laterally, and forward-leaning to minimize the duration of pressure acting on the same region of the body.

OBJECTIVE: Our long-term objective is to build upon previous research and development to create a more effective device for improving PR training and adherence to CPG among manual wheelchair users (MWU). Through this study, we employed a participatory action design and engineering (PADE) approach in developing the hardware and user interface to increase the likelihood of eventually yielding a device effective for both MWU and clinicians.

PARTICIPANTS: Focus Groups: Ten clinicians – 6 physical therapists, 3 occupational therapists, and one registered nurse, and 10 MWU with spinal cord injuries (SCI) who reported using their wheelchairs 40-80 h per week. Five-Day Assessment: Five male MWU with SCI who had been wheelchair users for 18.5 ± 16.2 years. Four-Week Investigation: The 7 participants with SCI were 5 males and 2 females, who had been wheelchair users for 24.7 ± 17.0 years.

METHODS: A PADE approach was used to improve upon a manual wheelchair virtual coaching system for people with SCI. The system comprises a seat support instrumented with force sensors, software algorithms to detect PR, and a smart phone app for user interface. The methods included three stages: multiple focus groups, a five-day evaluation phase with participants using their own wheelchairs in their homes and communities, and a 4-week assessment with improvements made based on the 5-day results by users with their own wheelchairs in their homes and communities.

RESULTS: The focus groups yielded guidance for ergonomics, user interface, charging frequency, and key dimensions and mass. The 5-day study identified mechanical, electrical, and connectivity challenges, which were resolved before the 4-week study. The 4-week trial suggested that participants performed PR less frequently than clinically recommended and provided an indication of the types of maneuvers that they performed.

CONCLUSION: A prototype manual wheelchair virtual coaching system was developed using a PADE process. The system was able to detect and record PR in home and community environments. Following improvements identified in this study, a future version will be tested with additional users to determine whether it can improve adherence to PR guidance.

PMID:35994022 | DOI:10.1080/10790268.2022.2107352

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