Accenture Taps Virtual Reality to Improve the Lives of Amputees

More than 1 million people each year have a limb amputated. This is a traumatic surgery often followed by a long, grueling rehabilitation process that helps patients overcome both the physical and mental challenges associated with losing a limb.

Studies show that more than half of limb-loss patients experience depression and/or anxiety, and only about a third complete their rehabilitation programs that can lead to a higher quality of life.

It’s a problem that SAP alliance partner Accenture is teaming up with the University of São Paulo (USP) School of Medicine to solve through innovation. The two organizations are developing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that include virtual reality (VR) technology along with biomechanical, 3D-printable prosthetics to encourage patients to complete their physical therapy (PT) and improve their physical and mental well-being.

Accenture has created a VR game, built on SAP Cloud Platform and leveraging SAP Leonardo, that works with a wearable device outfitted with sensors to track electrical impulses associated with a patient’s limb movement. The VR game tasks the patient with picking up items and other tasks that require them to use muscles associated with the prosthetic, getting them comfortable with a prosthetic limb while also exercising the muscles necessary to accelerate the recovery process. Software developed by Accenture tracks the patients’ progress in real time, giving doctors unprecedented access to data surrounding the PT.

“With the use of gamification, the rehabilitation process is streamlined a great deal,” said Daniel Gonzalez, innovation center principal for Accenture in Brazil. “The biomechanical device is made to fit the arm, like a virtual hand, with a lot of sensors that are controlled by muscles stimulating the arm. The physician will work with the patient to fully understand the functionality, what muscles are firing and transmitting an electromagnetic current, how it strengthens muscles and how to move this biomechanical prosthetic.”

The initiative is still being tested with a control group in Brazil. Accenture and the USP School of Medicine will have the solution authorized by local health organizations in Brazil and then make it available around the world.

Leveraging Technology to Improve Lives

“The whole idea started with knowing the capabilities of SAP Leonardo and SAP Cloud Platform — we knew we could create a wearable device that would benefit these patients and the physicians working with them,” Gonzalez said.

Accenture developed an application to collect data that gives physicians an instant analysis into what’s going on.

“The patient can try to grab a ball or cut bread with a knife through the immersive VR goggles,” Gonzalez. “It tricks the brain into thinking the hand is there when it’s not. That also helps ease pain associated with phantom limbs.”

Accenture and the USP School of Medicine believe that the exercises could also help reduce patients’ time in physical therapy and increase the percentage of patients that finish their therapy plans.

Gamification is not a new concept for physical therapy, Gonzalez said.

Leveraging SAP Leonardo also means that patients could do physical therapy remotely, Gonzalez said. “They could do it from home or wherever they are comfortable. It can be difficult to motivate a 13-year-old to go through a year-long therapy process. Many patients give up in the middle of the process, they don’t get a prosthetic, and their quality of life decreases. We are hopeful that this will help people get familiar with using a prosthetic and ultimately live a better life.”

To learn more, read the press release from Accenture: Accenture Builds Virtual Reality Game with SAP Leonardo to Provide More Therapy Options for People with Amputations

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