Researchers incorporate motion analysis technology into health care

Sean Gamble, M.D., anesthesiology resident, wears motion capture sensors while performing a simulated intubation procedure as Mark Hoffman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Insights and Assistant Dean for Educational Innovation, watches.

Two robotic-looking figures seen in front of a black background appear to be doing a pantomime routine. In reality, it’s a motion-capture video of two medical clinicians performing a simulated intubation of a patient.

The technology widely used to analyze athletes’ movements is now making its way into the health care arena at the UMKC School of Medicine. That’s where Mark Hoffman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Insights and Assistant Dean for Educational Innovation, has collaborated with colleagues from UMKC to form the Interdisciplinary Motional Analysis Group.

“We’re applying advanced technology to research and examining how we can modify our training strategy to reflect our observations,” Hoffman said. “So it has both a research and an educational mission.”

Hoffman and Greg King, Ph.D., a mechanical engineering professor in the School of Computing and Engineering, and his graduate student Safeer Siddicky, use a portable platform of 18 cameras to capture data that among other things can help assess clinical behaviors and development.

King uses similar technology with the UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance to study the posture and movements of music conductors and how they develop repetitive stress injuries. The team realized that two particular groups of health-care providers, ophthalmologists and dentists, also experience higher frequencies of the same ailment. The group is currently doing pilot projects with both groups of clinicians to better understand the ergonomics of their work.

The technology is also being used as an aid for developing skills and techniques in the School of Medicine’s Clinical Training Facility, where clinical simulations take place such as the intubation of a patient.

“This lets us use motion analysis to understand skills development at a very detailed level by having learners at different skill levels perform simulated procedures at the training facility and then analyze the data,” Hoffman said.

IMAG has also attracted attention at two of the school’s affiliate hospitals. Physicians and researchers at Children’s Mercy participate in IMAG and are interested in using the motion capture technology to help evaluate and better understand movement disorders in children. Neurologists at Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City have expressed interest in using it to gain a better understanding of adult movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

The technology as applications to nursing as well. Motion capture can look at and help improve how nurses lift their patients. The workplace concern leads to a higher frequency of injuries, additional workman’s compensation and increased health-care costs.

“We were amazed at the variety of initiatives and opportunities that tie into the general concept of this technology,” Hoffman said.

In addition, public television caught wind of Hoffman and King’s work. The nationally syndicated program, SciTech Now, recently aired a 7-minute documentary featuring the motion capture technology. Kansas City’s local affiliate KCPT was among the many stations that carried the show, which explored how the technology works and is being introduced into medical education and other avenues of health care. The program was filmed at the school’s Clinical Training Facility.

Hoffman said the television program helped showcase the technology and the work of the motion analysis group as a unique source of strength for health care in Kansas City.

“It’s really blossomed into this collaborative environment where we have engineers, musicians, health care providers, and informatics experts all meeting to share ideas and resources,” he said. “It’s a great example of what interdisciplinary collaboration can look like. We have common capabilities and common needs.”