Background: Recent advancements in wearable sensor technology have shown the feasibility of remote physical therapy at home. In particular, the current COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need and opportunity of internet-based wearable technology in future health care systems. Previous research has shown the feasibility of human activity recognition technologies for monitoring rehabilitation activities in home environments; however, few comprehensive studies ranging from development to clinical evaluation exist.
Objective: This study aimed to (1) develop a home-based rehabilitation (HBR) system that can recognize and record the type and frequency of rehabilitation exercises conducted by the user using a smartwatch and smartphone app equipped with a machine learning (ML) algorithm and (2) evaluate the efficacy of the home-based rehabilitation system through a prospective comparative study with chronic stroke survivors.
Methods: The HBR system involves an off-the-shelf smartwatch, a smartphone, and custom-developed apps. A convolutional neural network was used to train the ML algorithm for detecting home exercises. To determine the most accurate way for detecting the type of home exercise, we compared accuracy results with the data sets of personal or total data and accelerometer, gyroscope, or accelerometer combined with gyroscope data. From March 2018 to February 2019, we conducted a clinical study with two groups of stroke survivors. In total, 17 and 6 participants were enrolled for statistical analysis in the HBR group and control group, respectively. To measure clinical outcomes, we performed the Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT), Fugl-Meyer Assessment of Upper Extremity, grip power test, Beck Depression Inventory, and range of motion (ROM) assessment of the shoulder joint at 0, 6, and 12 months, and at a follow-up assessment 6 weeks after retrieving the HBR system.
Results: The ML model created with personal data involving accelerometer combined with gyroscope data (5590/5601, 99.80%) was the most accurate compared with accelerometer (5496/5601, 98.13%) or gyroscope data (5381/5601, 96.07%). In the comparative study, the drop-out rates in the control and HBR groups were 40% (4/10) and 22% (5/22) at 12 weeks and 100% (10/10) and 45% (10/22) at 18 weeks, respectively. The HBR group (n=17) showed a significant improvement in the mean WMFT score (P=.02) and ROM of flexion (P=.004) and internal rotation (P=.001). The control group (n=6) showed a significant change only in shoulder internal rotation (P=.03).
Conclusions: This study found that a home care system using a commercial smartwatch and ML model can facilitate participation in home training and improve the functional score of the WMFT and shoulder ROM of flexion and internal rotation in the treatment of patients with chronic stroke. This strategy can possibly be a cost-effective tool for the home care treatment of stroke survivors in the future.