Insight Health: Walk this way! All about Gaitkeeper

Submitted on Thursday, 03/02/2022

Did you know that the way you walk can tell a lot about your health? Well it’s true, and understanding this could be very useful in the future of healthcare.

How we walk (termed “gait”) is an indicator of our overall function, it provides doctors and other health professionals with important information on a patient’s physical, cognitive and psychological wellness. Developing accessible technology which easily and accurately measures subtle changes in the way people walk will enhance the detection of declining health and the timely delivery of care to older people. This ensures clinical interventions occur earlier before treatment becomes more expensive and difficult.

Until now, equipment to measure gait has been expensive, requiring a high level of training, and a lot of space. For this reason, accessibility to gait analysis in clinical settings has been limited. GaitKeeper, a new AI digital solution developed by DGL and clinically validated by Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) will change the way we can measure gait. Gaitkeeper provides a digital application which measures changes in a person’s walking, requiring minimal space and can be used by anyone.

The clinical study of GaitKeeper in TUH, brought novel artificial and computer vision research carried out in the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics in Dublin City University, out of the lab and into the hands of clinicians in a teaching hospital. In a research partnership funded by Enterprise Ireland, the technology which has been in development for the last two years is the first technology of its type in the world.

The technology uses novel Artificial Intelligence computer vision algorithms to quantify important features of a person’s walk. “We do this using a single video recorded on a mobile phone, making it very portable, and very easy to use in a variety of hands” explained Dr. Aidan Boran, Founder and CEO Digital Gait Labs Ltd. The portability of the technology means it can be used in a variety of healthcare settings such as a hospital ward, nursing home, GP clinic or in a person’s home.

The study in TUH confirmed that the data provided by GaitKeeper is accurate and reliable, indicating that this tool is suitable to be used in the clinical setting. Commenting on the trial results, Gillian Harte, Chartered Physiotherapist at TUH, reported that “For us clinicians, it’s really important to be able to measure the way our patients walk, and unfortunately at the moment that’s not the case. GaitKeeper provides a solution to that problem”.

The clinical application of the technology has been directed by Professor Sean Kennelly, Consultant Geriatrician at TUH. He commented ‘This technology is a game-changer for clinicians as to how we can monitor and gauge how well and fast our patients can walk. This is a key indicator of a person’s wellness and the technology will be easy to use in any care setting. “This technology effectively offers us a digital biomarker of a patient’s wellness.”

The next stage of this collaboration between TUH and DGL will involve using the technology in a variety of settings to measure and maximise its clinical utility. These further studies and integrations will take place in the second half of 2021.

Professor Des O’Neill, Consultant Geriatrician at TUH, commented “We badly need a simple way to do gait analysis. Thankfully, most of us are living not only longer, but also fitter and more healthy. But inevitably, among that group, we begin to see problems around walking, and very often these problems may be intricately linked with how the brain is working in other areas such as memory or swallowing. This is probably one of the most important projects we have undertaken here in the Department of Geriatric Medicine in TUH.”

“Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund helps Irish innovators translate their ideas and research into commercially viable products. We are delighted to have supported the development of GaitKeeper. Driven by powerful Artificial Intelligence algorithms, the GaitKeeper technology is an effective tool for monitoring of changes in human movement associated with a wide range of serious neurological, physical and emotion conditions.” – Kevin Burke, ICT Director, Research & Commercialisation, Enterprise Ireland.

“Research and Innovation lies at the heart of Tallaght University Hospital’s drive to deliver improved patient care and enhance the health and wellbeing of our population. The Hospital is delighted to study, analyse and implement this technology on campus and support the next stage of its development which contributes to our goal of becoming a national centre for health research and innovation for technology” commented Lucy Nugent, Chief Executive of TUH.

Digital Gait Labs Ltd will spin out from Dublin City University and focus on delivering easy to use, AI based, digital gait solutions for use, initially in the age related and the rehabilitation clinical areas.

Further details on the project can be accessed by watching the video here.