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AnatOnMe: An interactive look inside the body

Written by Gabriella Blake At this years ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systemsa team of Microsoft researchers from Washingtons Redmo...

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|Aug 9|magazine14 min read

Written by Gabriella Blake

At this year’s ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systemsa team of Microsoft researchers from Washington’s Redmond campus showcased a prototype projection-based handheld device designed for use in physical therapy consultations.

The device, which the team has christened AnatOnMe, features a projector, a digital camera, an infrared camera and a laser pointer.

Six stock images are stored on the device and are used to depict the state of the patient’s injury beneath the surface. The projector displays the relevant image on one of a choice of three presentation surfaces: the wall of the consultation room, the injured part of the patient’s body, or the corresponding body part of a model. The images detail bone structure, muscle tissue, tendons and nerves.

Amy Karlson led the team of researchers alongside Tao Ni and Daniel Wigdor.

“AnatOnMe comes pre-loaded with ‘teaching scripts’ for six common injuries for which people seek physical therapy,” Karlson told Heathcare Global. “Each script consists of a series of anatomy images that a therapist would use to teach a patient about an injury, including underlying anatomical structures, the anatomical manifestation of the injury, and the anatomical goals of the recovery process.”

The digital camera on the device can be used to take images and videos of the patient’s injury. These can be used to monitor how effectively the patient is performing their therapy exercises.

The infrared camera and the laser pointer, meanwhile, can be used in conjunction to allow the doctor to ‘draw’ on the image of the injury, in the form of labels or annotations. Photographs can then be printed for the patient to take home.

The device was designed to combat the issue of reluctance on the part of patients to complete care plans advised by their doctors. Studies suggest that 30 to 50 percent of patients with chronic conditions are likely to give up treatments early.

“One of the biggest challenges the healthcare industry faces is inspiring patients to comply with care plans—for example taking medications, eating right, exercising, and so on,” Karlson explained.

“In physical therapy, successful recovery often requires that patients perform exercises on their own time—exercises that are often boring and uncomfortable.”

“One popular strategy for encouraging patient compliance with an exercise regimen in physical therapy is to gain patient ‘buy-in’ by educating patients in detail about their injury and the goals of recovery,” she continued.

Doctors report having limited time to educate patients during a consultation. The device would aid and speed up this process so that patients are more likely to comply with the care plan.

“By teaching patients about an injury directly on their bodies, AnatOnMe provides a personalised and engaging educational experience that helps bridge the knowledge gap between therapists and their patients,” Karlson stated.

Tests showed that the device provoked a more engaging and informative consultation. Many patients reacted with expressions of awe such as “ooh”, “wow” and “cool”. One patient even remarked: “I feel like I am looking directly through my skin… and thinking about what is going on inside.”

“Our study concluded that there appears to be something quite unique about viewing medical imagery on one’s own body,” Karlson said.

“The body-based projection was considered highly engaging and helped participants understand the precise location of anatomy structures with respect to their own bodies.”

A questionnaire with Likert-scale questions was used to compare patients’ experiences with each of the three presentation surfaces tested. Patients assessed the use of the device on each surface in terms of how engaging, disturbing, fun or enjoyable they found the process. Using the device to display an image on the patient’s own body constantly came top or joint top.

Doctors were also enthusiastic about the device. A doctor praising the use of the patient’s body as a surface stated: “There is a definite value of having an individual’s picture as an exercise model, as opposed to a preprint. It is more personal.”

The team was pleased with the success of the study and is considering how the device can be developed for use on a wider scale.

“Refinements to the system would be necessary to ensure that AnatOnMe meets the needs of any target discipline,” Karlson noted.

“For example, in the physical therapy domain, six teaching scripts would not provide sufficient coverage of the injuries for which patients typically seek a physical therapist and so would require additional scripts to be developed.

“Furthermore, the system we built and explored was a rapid prototype designed to learn about the potential utility of such a device, but additional investigation would certainly be required to hone its industrial design for day to day use.”