When Amit Jindal noticed that his grandmother’s physiotherapy appointments were being postponed due to the pandemic, he started racking his brains for a solution. Armed with his knowledge in AI, he developed a remote treatment app that would allow therapists to monitor the progress from the hospital.

The populations in Southeast Asia are ageing rapidly, says the World Health Organisation. “Action is needed to ensure all older people can access the health services they need, when they need them”, the organisation states.

Singapore’s Centre for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) and Temasek Foundation had an open call for startups looking to provide innovative solutions to help the elderly among other groups. The three top teams from this search were announced in August 2021. They share their innovations to tackle healthcare’s future challenges.

1. AI-enabled physiotherapy

Jindal’s AI physiotherapy app gives instructions for patients to follow and monitors their progress remotely. Patients set up their mobile device to film their movements, and the AI system tracks the joints of the body to assess their movement, says Jindal, CEO of RootAlly Ai.

The physiotherapy positions can be done alone, for example lying on your back and raising your legs in the air. The app will make suggestions on how to improve the body shape for maximum treatment. The progress of the patient can then be shared with a physiotherapist.

RootAlly Ai’s app and data plaform.

The app allows “patients to access the appropriate services in a seamless and hassle-free manner”, says Geoffrey Gui, Director, Future Health System, Singapore General Hospital.

It also reduces unnecessary visits to the healthcare facility, which “can be tough on elderly and frail patients”, he adds.

The AI’s processing is done within the device itself, reducing privacy concerns, highlights Jindal. The only data leaving the device is the final report for the physiotherapist. The AI can also work offline, meaning that patients in less connected regions can use the app too.

2. Using data to monitor epilepsy 

The second innovation is a digital platform that records, analyses and presents epilepsy data. Patients wear a device at home, and doctors can conveniently monitor and analyse their brain activity.

By making the monitoring process available at home, epilepsy patients are closely monitored over a period of time, allowing for doctors to potentially predict when a seizure might occur. The system enables patients to live a “more predictable” life, says Dr Rahul Rathakrishnan, Senior Consultant, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, National University Hospital.

The Epilog platform personalises its analysis for each patient, and presents the final report through visual charts and graphs, rather than just numbers. This makes it easier for patients to understand their own condition.

An example of the data reports created from Epilog’s monitoring.

Epilog-NV also looks to simplify the analysis process for healthcare staff. Previously, neurologists had to scroll through brain activity recordings minute by minute. This new tool will save time and effort.

The platform processes this data for the doctors, says CCO and Partner, Jurgen Van Broeck. This means that they can “focus on the interpretation of our reports, which immediately saves time”, he continues.

“For the patients, this also means cutting down on hospital visits and costs, as they can stay in their familiar home environment while being monitored remotely,” he adds.

3. Robot therapists for the elderly 

The third winning team designed a robot system where patients use their arms to interact with an on-screen game. This provides therapeutic benefits to the patient’s arm, and stimulates their mental and sensory abilities.

While patients play the game, an AI algorithm constantly assesses their condition and evaluates if the intensity level is appropriate. This data is transferred to a hospital therapist, who has an overview of the rehabilitation session.

“In Singapore, because of the ageing population, there’s a very high need to move out of the hospital,” explains Dr Asif Hussain, CEO of Articares.

Moving these robots into homes will “ensure a higher intensity of rehabilitation” when compared to infrequent visits to the hospital, states Dr Loh Yong Joo, Director, Clinical Research and Innovation Office, Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

An Articares robot being used in the home environment.

Therapists could also benefit from this technology. Treating patients with movement issues is physically intensive work for the therapist, says Dr Hussain. These robots can take over some of the physical strain on therapists.

The robots are designed with ageing societies in mind, with the device’s setting up only taking two to three steps, says Dr Hussain. The AI system is also built-into the system, so it can operate with limited connectivity.

The health challenges that await are unprecedented for healthcare providers. To find appropriate solutions, there are new sources of remote care innovations. Open calls for healthcare startups provide an opportunity for the best ideas to find the spotlight.

Images from the Centre for Healthcare Innovation.