copd walk test GaitTrack Smartphone App, a Medical Device for Automatic Gait Assessment

A person’s gait can be a sign of an underlying disease, but assessing it usually involves a trip to a specialized clinic where a “six-minute walk test” is performed. While effective when performed, the test suffers from being done rarely and therefore is not ideal for detecting a new or already existing worsening condition.

Researchers at University of Illinois have developed a smartphone app that essentially runs the walk test continuously as long as the patient is carrying the phone. The GaitTrack app takes advantage of accelerometers built into modern smartphones, obtaining much more comprehensive data than provided by traditional pedometers. Coupled with a pulse oximeter, the app can record the gait along with the person’s heart rate and blood oxygenation for a more complete picture of health. The researchers tested the app on 30 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and found that the app is more accurate, and surely cheaper, than medical accelerometers already used in medicine. They discovered that the GaitTrack app was able to quite accurately predict a person’s FEV1 test (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 Second).

“The original plan was just to validate the software against the standard medical walk test,” [Bruce Schatz, head of medical information science and a professor of computer science at the U. of I.] said, “but we looked at other data and found that it matched well with a pulmonary function test called FEV1. Predicting FEV1 is useful because that’s the standard number used to determine treatment. That’s worth a lot to a health system.”

Schatz envisions the GaitTrack app running constantly in the background as a patient carries a phone. The phone would periodically collect data, analyze it and keep tabs on the patient’s status, alerting the patient or patient’s doctor when it detects changes in gait that would indicate a decline in health so that treatment could be adjusted responsively.

The researchers now are testing GaitTrack in larger trials within health systems. Schatz hopes to have the app available for download within months.

Study in Telemedicine and e-HealthHealth Monitors for Chronic Disease by Gait Analysis with Mobile Phones…

More from Univ of Illinois: GaitTrack app makes cellphone a medical monitor for heart and lung patients…