CRT Technology Showcase

A Virtual Voice in Your Client's Corner

Virtual Seating CoachSuccessful coaching requires the ability to understand and work with different personalities. It demands not just expert knowledge, but the ability to convey and teach that knowledge. Great coaches teach and encourage, but they also equip their pupils to succeed on their own.

Two years ago, Permobil unveiled Virtual Seating Coach (VSC) and gave International Seating Symposium (ISS) attendees a first look in Vancouver, B.C. Now, Permobil is set to officially launch the system, originally developed by the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories.

“Since it has been two years, I think it’s great to revisit why Permobil is putting our efforts into the VSC,” said David Algood, Permobil’s global portfolio manager. “If we understand that people who use our products want to be as active, healthy and independent as possible, then the VSC is a natural next step for Permobil. It’s clinically understood that using the seat functions on your wheelchair allows you to stay in a chair longer, be more active, get more things done, and potentially prevent secondary issues that could occur, so the VSC is absolutely valuable to anyone using a powered seating system.”

At ISS, Permobil will demonstrate its “connected” chair, which includes VSC. So this is just the beginning.

Two Years of Listening to Feedback

Simply stated, a clinician can program VSC with data such as how often the Permobil power chair user should weight shift, and the proper combination of tilt, recline and elevating legrests to achieve optimal pressure relief. Via the wheelchair user’s smartphone, VSC can remind the client when it’s time to weight shift and can track the client’s overall compliance rate.

Permobil has spent two years testing VSC, listening to clinician and client feedback, and fine-tuning the system to meet users’ wide-ranging needs, said Brandon Edmondson, OTR, ATP, CRTS, director of clinical sales & outcomes for Permobil and TiLite.

“Most of what we showed two years ago was the idea that this could be done and that it was very much needed,” he explained. Since then, “We have developed an app that works in both Android and IOS platforms, developed a clinician Web portal, tested the product at four different test sites (United States and Sweden) and learned a ton about what we needed to do to make it all work. The team in Sweden has molded and adapted the app and the Web portal literally hundreds of times over the past year.”

Beta testing, Edmondson added, showed that VSC could do more than just remind users about proper positioning. “We learned we could help clients identify and better deal with pain, and we learned we could coach a standing regimen, as just a few examples. The biofeedback of always knowing your seating system position in space has proven to be really dynamically helpful to A Virtual Voice in Your Client’s Corner the client and the clinical team. The data created of how the seat is actually used is also really valuable.”

Support Without Intrusion

As any ATP or clinician knows, for a system like VSC to truly work, it must integrate into the lives of both consumers and seating teams.

To that point, Edmondson said, “I’m happy to say that the chair can connect to the app, the user can log in, and a clinician can set up a regimen, all in a matter of minutes. We have worked really hard to ensure that setting a client up was very quick and simple. The time pull on the clinician is very small; we know how busy they are, and we built in some opportunities for co-treatment as well as reassigning the same client to another clinician down the road.”

On the client side, VSC seeks to support seating goals without being so intrusive that the client just shuts it off. “It’s a balance of being there when you need it, and not bugging the person, either,” Edmondson said. “For example, if you’re within 20 percent of your regimen interval, and the client does a weight shift early because they’re getting ready to leave the house or go into a meeting, it won’t remind you again. It will simply start over with a new countdown. The user can also snooze a reminder, dismiss it or put the app in do-not-disturb mode for a few hours.”

Obviously, VSC comes to mind for consumers new to powered positioning — and Edmondson said shorter stays in rehab facilities mean less time for new wheelchair users to learn the importance of pressure relief. He suggested that helping a client “form good repositioning habits right from the start and carrying those good habits home and across the first year post injury is critical.”

But like any good coach, VSC can adapt to support other clients as well, including veteran wheelchair users.

“We hope that clients do form the habits, understand the angles and don’t need the app to coach them forever,” Edmondson said. “However, we also think that if a problem arises and the client and clinician want to turn coaching back on for a time, then they should be able to do that. Knowing that it’s there when needed, I think, will give everyone involved some peace of mind.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Mobility Management.

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