Community Conversations -reHub

Community Conversations can have an impact in various ways, from discussing challenges, catalyzing collaborations or changing the direction of the project and creating new initiatives.

This was the case for Sara Savian and Mauro Alfieri, creators of reHub. The glove designed for proprioceptive rehabilitation and to recover movement fluidity after an injury.  It allows the patient to record and report exercises, data- such as hand position and fingertips pressure.

In 2014 Sara Savian and Mauro Alfieri started their journey with a “test on sensors “and they had presented their first prototype at the Arduino User Group & Wearables community at WeMake. The purpose for this to share projects, knowledge and create discussions on Arduino and Wearables and smart textiles.  The intent was to explore how it can be used? How can it add value and be of use socially?  What could be built on this foundation? These discussions could change the course for many participants.

Sara and Mauro not only had many questions answered, but they left with the idea of going back to the drawing board and creating something that would be beneficial to society.

A conversation between a physiotherapist and someone suffering from hand disability created inquiry for Sara and Mauro. They exchanged and shared thoughts on their project, how could it be of use and that led to further discussion. It was the trigger point for them and a stepping stone for their project. We can’t capture every discussion that took place as dialogue is woven into many discussions. But this one interaction planted the seed for what is now reHub.

We asked Sara to recollect this conversation:

John: "I suffer from a hand disability that limits my activities of daily life. Self-sufficiency is greatly reduced and hinders the quality of life for me. Constant monitoring of my movements and joints must be done frequently to evaluate my progress by and going back and forth as an outpatient for evaluations. This interferes with my daily activities”*

Physiotherapist: “There has been an advancement in technologies in the rehabilitation to help patients achieve maximum recovery outcomes. In Italy, physiotherapists have no access to digital tools to evaluate rehabilitative progress for hand movements. Having instant access to this therapy anytime would be greatly beneficial.*

We asked Sara and Mauro how this conversation altered the course for reHub.

Sara: “This made us re-evaluate our project in a variety of ways and prompted us to think in broader terms and combine the “test on sensors” with solving a problem. We know that there is a lot of learning that needs to be done when you put the device in the hands of people that are just things you would not expect". 

Mauro: From this discussion, Sara and I saw the opportunity offer a solution and an experience of an emerging area of wearable technology together with the sensing technology and decided to create a device that could be delivered in a rehabilitation approach to support patients’ and to monitor hand rehabilitation. From listening to challenges that are faced on a daily basis, and realizing how painful it is for the patient and family. We need to work with them to help co-create with us”.

With the project in its early stage, Sara wanted to share this:

Sara: “There is much work to do including working with actual users and receiving their feedback. With the goal of making it open source, fully customizable and adaptable, a community of user is required. We are solving the problem of monitoring the progress of rehabilitation therapy and the people directly impacted must be included.”

We asked what’s next for reHub.

Sara: “We know that rehabilitation is time-consuming and demotivating and we plan to change that with a reHub device to empower patients through their therapy. Rehabilitation is often costly, by making it open source, it’s affordable and accessible for people who are living with limitation and this could drastically improve their mental well-being during the road of recovery”. This will allow the vast majority of patients to be sent home with a rehabilitation program to practice on their smartphone or tablet.”

The reHub team is taking a broad approach in this area and looking for users and a community that will benefit and help develop different options: sport, gaming, educational, medical.

Why is it important to work with the community to further develop reHub?

Sara: “Spending time with a community, or patients that will benefit from what you’re creating is looking at the problem in a human-centered way and it highlight’s what’s needed instead of just relying on responses to questions. Spending time with people in the area of use is a really important step in the design process. So we’re back to the drawing board. We need to know what from the user’s perspective so we can design with them in mind.”

Co-creation, it matters. There is the emotional and functional connection that people have to a medical device. As far as functional, understanding how people use things, what they need to get done daily.  When we think of medical devices we initially think of accuracy, consistency, making sure it delivers the expected results. These are crucial reasons why design should be human oriented.

Mauro Alfieri: “We thank all the physiotherapists we have had a chance to meet with  which could effectively confront the future of this project, orienting it to a continuous use in proprioceptive physiotherapy."

If people can’t achieve expected results due to a design issue or flaw, then that’s obviously going to have a clinical impact. From a functional aspect, understanding how people use things does matter. This is where engineering, design and the community will benefit and need to work hand in hand to understand these components. It’s crucial to consider human emotions when designing medical products. Often, it’s the emotional connections that people have with respect to the design. Is it flexible? The weight, how it feels, is it aesthetically appealing?

Then, of course, cost and accessibility that make people gravitate toward certain devices as opposed to others. With the joined forces of diverse backgrounds of Sara and Mauro, reHub will be addressing all these concerns.

reHub-goal-oriented effective rehabilitative treatment and experience that will help patients return to family, job, community and resume regular daily activities.

More updates to follow.

*The name of John and Physiotherapist have been used to maintain privacy.

Sharing reflections

There is always a series of encounters and discussions that help pave the path that led to idea creation. During these conversations, it;s the human “Why”- not the scientific “Why”.It’s in those personal interactions that give a voice to humanistic problems.  @Noemi @Nadia