ER-WCPT: Dublin dean talks of tool to help with wearable tech pilots

Brian Caulfield, dean of physiotherapy at University College Dublin, warned physiotherapists to be extremely cautious about including activity sensors into their practice.


Brian Caulfield and Francis Fatoye spoke about the need for clinical and economic evidence for wearables. Photo: Darren O’Brien/Guzelian

He is leading research into wearable technologies in health and sport at the Applied Research for Connected Health (ARCH) centre in Dublin.

In a debate about how technologies can enhance healthcare education and clinical practice, Professor Caulfield said that, over the past 10 years, personal sensors had massively increased the capacity to measure human performance.

But he cautioned that, particularly in relation to consumer products, there was a lack of scientific evidence and huge variations in the accuracy of data they produced.

Meanwhile, patients were asking physiotherapists to prescribe wearable technologies and integrate them into their practice, he told delegates.

‘The problem is that there is an awful lot of rubbish out there. So we need to be very, very careful,’ he said.

One solution was a ‘decision-making tool pathway’ produced by ARCH. This had multiple steps designed to help people choose the right sensor for a pilot and evaluation.

The stages in the pathway were: a definition of requirement; a market scan, to see what devices were available; a desk evaluation and comparison; and a field evaluation. The aim was to enable the user to make an informed selection before launching a pilot.

The tool was currently available as a document from University College Dublin, but would be available as an online guide, according to Professor Caulfield.

On the theme of the economic evaluation of technologies, physiotherapist and health economist Francis Fatoye emphasised that both clinical and cost effectiveness had to be demonstrated.

The professor of health economics at Manchester Metropolitan University spoke about the range of economic evaluation methods that can be used for technologies.

He told delegates about the importance of economic evaluation, saying: ‘It gives us an insight into how resources should be allocated in practice.

‘It provides an objective set of criteria for making choices among a range of alternatives, and to compare alternatives.

‘And in terms of return on investment, if there is a set amount of money for an intervention, you have to you demonstrate that it is actually worth spending that money.’

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