The worst thing about fracturing a bone — well, the second worst thing — is the unnerving mystery of the recovery. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few eons, and you never really know how you’ve progressed, short of doing something your doctor told you not to do and either succeeding or suffering ungodly pain.
A futuristic concept by Pedro Nakazato Andrade, a recent graduate of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID), tries to demystify the healing process. “Bones” is an orthopedic cast embedded with electromyographic sensors that capture muscle activity around the fracture area and dispatch the data to a health-management website. There, patients can track their recovery. The site even suggests exercises, based on patients’ input, to keep their muscles from melting away.
There’s a second component to the project: It’s social. Doctors and other patients can access your records on the site. Doctors, okay. But other patients? No one wants to share private medical data with a total stranger. The idea: “Sharing this information is a way to encourage new users to engage with their recovery process from the beginning of their treatment,” Andrade says.
Weird as it seems, it actually makes a lot of sense. Getting people to manage their own health is one of the biggest challenges in medicine. But if you introduce an element of social pressure, patients will be more inclined to take care of themselves; that is, to do the exercises that the website suggests. That, in turn, can speed recovery and cut back on medical costs. It’s like tracking your weight loss on a blog. The simple fact of doing it online in front of other people is a powerful motivator, the threat of public shame luring you inexorably toward the treadmill and away from the ice cream tub.
[The Bones website includes step-by-step instructions for strengthening muscles around the fracture]
Andrade tells Co.Design that Bones — his master’s thesis at CIID — has generated some interest from the Bevica Foundation, a Danish organization that researches mobility problems. Which means this thing could very well become a reality someday. To the accident-prone among you, think of it as your new favorite social network.
[Images courtesy of Pedro Nakazato Andrade]