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Delivering Connectivity and Security in a Wearable Physical Therapy Device

A new smart wearable product was introduced into the physical therapy market offering a variety of features that will greatly improve the practice of remote physical therapy while providing practitioners new data insights to optimize the quality of patient care.

Delivering Connectivity and Security in a Wearable Physical Therapy Device

A new smart wearable product was introduced into the physical therapy market offering a variety of features that will greatly improve the practice of remote physical therapy while providing practitioners new data insights to optimize the quality of patient care.


Smart

Connected home therapy devices need to deliver secure patient data in real-time and insight into device performance and patient safety. Microchip’s 32-bit microcontroller was chosen to drive these advanced capabilities.

Smart

Connected home therapy devices need to deliver secure patient data in real-time and insight into device performance and patient safety. Microchip’s 32-bit microcontroller was chosen to drive these advanced capabilities.

Connected

Microchip’s IEEE 802.11 b/g/n IoT Wi-Fi® module delivers the high performance connectivity and low power specs that are ideal for a remotely operated therapy device where long battery life is essential.   

Connected

Microchip’s IEEE 802.11 b/g/n IoT Wi-Fi® module delivers the high performance connectivity and low power specs that are ideal for a remotely operated therapy device where long battery life is essential.   

Secure

In an emerging market for connected medical devices, security is much more than a selling point. It’s a requirement. Microchip’s CryptoAuthentication™ solution delivers confidentiality, data integrity and authentication at all times.

Secure

In an emerging market for connected medical devices, security is much more than a selling point. It’s a requirement. Microchip’s CryptoAuthentication™ solution delivers confidentiality, data integrity and authentication at all times.

The physical therapy sector has been redefining itself for decades. Its growth trajectory has been fueled by a desire on the part of healthcare organizations to expedite hospital discharge protocols, while reducing costs and providing a better quality of service. That’s quite a challenge, with many moving parts. This business philosophy creates a greater demand for outpatient physical therapy services. And, in turn, business realities mandate new forms of remote wellness and home-based therapy offerings.

The art and science of physical therapy is constantly evolving as people are generally in various stages of growth, aging, recovery or rehabilitation over the course of their lives. Massage and related musculoskeletal treatments have been instituted in all cultures, in all parts of the world and over many thousands of years. The formal practice of physical therapy is often traced to the Swedish gymnastics system developed by Pehr Henrik Ling in the early 1800s at the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics (RCIG) in Stockholm. Among the outcomes of his programs was a set of practices beyond physical education and military training that defined practices for medical massage and manual therapies. 

It’s sometimes said that the work of physical therapists (PTs) stops short-term disabilities from becoming long-term conditions. In addition, PTs are charged with delivering many positive musculoskeletal and circulatory outcomes for those in their care. A PT’s work promotes healing after medical procedures and injuries, and often keeps patients from undergoing more invasive surgeries that can be costly and fraught with risk. Physical therapists have been at the forefront of restoring physical function and movement for their patients, which can directly alleviate some instances of a patient’s overreliance (abuse) of opioids for pain management.

The Intersection of IoT and Patient Data 

The proliferation of physical therapy clinics and highly-trained practitioners has been matched by the whirlwind of mergers and acquisitions within the healthcare space, and the evolution of advanced tools and technology. These developments and progress not only require the need for more data storage but the requirement of efficient communication and complete system security.  As hospital organizations and healthcare providers grow into larger entities, their connections to in-network physical therapy practices become increasingly important.

But what about the connection to the patients themselves? We have seen a rise in the usage of smart watches and consumer health apps within the mobile market. However, the promise of secure, connected medical devices outside of a hospital setting is still relatively new. The acceptance of telehealth (the delivery and facilitation of health and health-related services including medical care, provider and patient education, health information services, and self-care via telecommunications and digital communication technologies), in-home physical therapy and the emergence of IoT is hastening a major shift.   

What’s Next for Connected Devices?

The ability of caregivers to diagnose and quickly react to medical data by recognizing patterns is mission critical. It saves lives, improves patient recovery outcomes and enhances the quality of life for many millions of people each year.

Given the current head-spinning array of innovations at the intersection of IoT and modern medicine, you might conclude that we are entering the age the internet of medical things. Accelerated by the fact that patient data can now be securely shared among local and remote medical professionals in real time—the next wave of development is happening at lightspeed.

Microchip has been active in the world of wireless connectivity and IoT for many years. We are often called upon to share our expertise as customers envision new capabilities for tomorrow’s diagnostic devices and physical therapy solutions.   

 

THE CHALLENGE


A leading developer of wearable medical devices approached Microchip with a concept for a home therapy solution that incorporates IoMT connectivity features, intelligence and security.    

The company’s physical therapy customersare practitioners in acute care hospitals, long-term care facilities, dedicated medical offices, outpatient clinics, inpatient rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, athletic departments and even in the workplace. Physical therapists are offering expert instruction on the movements and exercises required for patients to practice at home and explain the proper use of the medical devices prescribed for home use. The majority of remote or wearable medical devices lack secure connectivity features.  This makes it difficult to assess if these devices are working properly when the patient is away from the hospital or clinic. Patient-use compliance has become a big issue for many therapeutic technology products. Healthcare providers simply can’t have too much data about their patients to overcome liability concerns and to deliver positive patient outcomes.

Microchip’s pioneering customer recognized this market opportunity and began to prototype next-generation solutions that would be both technically advanced and provide key enablers for value-based care among physical therapists. Among the key requirements for their new-generation IoMT device:

 

Device Functionality

• Support and execute the proper functions for the appropriate therapy

• Include reliable wireless connectivity so the patient can move freely throughout the day

• Require device battery to be re-charged no more than once per day

• Ability to remotely service and fix issues including updating the device’s firmware

 

Device Intelligence

• Know if the patient put the device on correctly

• Sense and record if the patient puts the device on, takes the device off and at what time

• Monitor if the patient is using the device correctly throughout the day

• Detect any problems with the device that may compromise patient safety, and implement a safe state situation

 

Device Security

• Support a secure wireless connection not susceptible of being hacked

 

Device Communication

• Detect any problems with the device and transmit the problem data to the Cloud Server

• Constantly report data to demonstrate that it is working correctly

 

THE SOLUTION


Adding a new tier of device intelligence in the equation was native to the Microchip team. Our unmatched portfolio of microcontroller solutions is a key foundational building block for any smart device. An appropriate microcontroller (MCU) was chosen to perform the complex functions of the physical therapy device. The firmware design required a complier qualified to the IEC 62304 medical software development standard. Functional safety firmware libraries based on international standards such as IEC 61508 also needed to be available for the microcontroller.

Having a robust solution set for the wireless connectivity aspect of the design, the Microchip team significantly reduced time to market for the customer. Our low power IEEE 802.11 b/g/n IoT Wi-Fi module met the target requirement for battery life. There was no need for the customer to subcontract Radio Frequency (RF) engineering experts for the project. In addition, the device needed to properly interface with one of the major cloud service vendors. From our portfolio of support tools, the Microchip team supplied Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud connectivity, which further reduced R&D costs.

Providing solutions for the high-level security requirements, a key consideration for any medical device, is one of Microchip’s flagship areas of expertise. Our customer mandated that the security features of the new device should be implemented in a hardware-centric mode, hence less firmware. Microchip’s embedded solution protects the wireless data transmission by preventing unauthorized access to the device. The new design is securely provisioned to authenticate to any of the major cloud platforms.

THE RESULT


A new, smart wearable product was introduced into the physical therapy market offering a variety of features that will greatly improve the practice of remote physical therapy while providing practitioners new data insights to optimize the quality of patient care.

With an industry-leading microcontroller as the engine driving the demanding smart capabilities of the new product, and Microchip’s advanced solutions for secure communication and data protection onboard, the value of our Total System Solution (TSS) approach was quickly realized.

Featured Products
Microchip supplied the new design with three fundamental IoT enablers:
  • A 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller with floating point unit
  • A global agency certified, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n IoT Wi-Fi module
  • A secure element CryptoAuthentication device
Featured Products
Microchip supplied the new design with three fundamental IoT enablers:
  • A 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller with floating point unit
  • A global agency certified, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n IoT Wi-Fi module
  • A secure element CryptoAuthentication device