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  • Nicholas Mellor

AI as a “force multiplier” in building capacity to assist amputees?

Updated: May 2

Amputees often face a long and unpredictable journey from stabilisation to rehabilitation. This is never more so than at the start of the journey when the medical priority may be to keep them alive. However, decisions made in those first few hours can have a huge impact further along the line. The idea that rehabilitation should begin at hour zero, maybe a challenge for a paramedic evacuating a patient or a frontline medical team at the limits of their capacity.

Every case is different, each patient following their own track with different degrees of mobility, confidence and complications to deal with. Operational artificial intelligence can help alert the team as to the critical risk or issues affecting the patient's longer term rehabilitation. Being able to analyze patient data in real time to predict complications and facilitate early interventions, potentially reducing complications and improving recovery rates, could be transformation in conflict affected regions where medical resources are strained.

Such data can provide care insights which can improve the integration of emergency response team's interventions into the longer term care for trauma patients. This can be especially significant with patients dealing with limb loss or amputation, and AI based alerts can encourage practitioners to take a more holistic approach to patient care, bringing in specialists to help address risk factors or actual complications in a more timely fashion.

Tracking information, during this journey or “longitudinally”, can help predict when these people will be unwell or ready to move on to the next stage of their support.

This information can also be shared with both the patient and the management team and carers to help provide a more consistent level of support in stretched health systems that may be struggling to meet urgent demands or trying to provide more comprehensive support to a system where services were "isolated" around traditional medical specialisations.

One organization following this approach is Cera founded by Dr Ben Maruthappu and now one of Europe's largest providers of digital healthcare at home.

Cera caregivers and nurses collect patient symptom information and health data during home visits, using artificial intelligence algorithms to predict deterioration before it happens, initiating early health interventions to prevent deterioration. The approach helped them:

· decrease in hospitalization rate by an unprecedented 52%

· up to 80% of hospitalizations were predicted seven days in advance

· reduction of patient falls by ~17%

· reduction of urination problems by ~47%

· reduction of infections by ~15%

· helped improve medication and prescription adherence in elderly patients by 35%.

In the United States, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is using operational artificial intelligence to improve the quality of care for veterans.

For example, the VHA uses artificial intelligence to identify patients who are at risk of developing chronic diseases.

Limb loss or amputation can have a significant impact on a person's physical and mental health and often requires a multidisciplinary approach to treatment and care.

Health and care system integration can help ensure that these patients receive comprehensive and coordinated care across multiple healthcare providers and settings.

Below are a few examples of how operational AI can accelerate the integration of health and care for patients affected by limb loss or amputation:

Prosthetic Limb Design and Customization: Artificial intelligence can be used to analyze data from patient assessments, medical images, and other sources to create a personalized design and fit for a prosthetic limb. This can improve patient outcomes by ensuring that the prosthesis fits well and functions effectively right from the start. This becomes more important with the distributed care model ,

where the clinics may have fewer specialists and rely on remote experts to make the best use of the team's skills and local resources.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to accelerate the integration of health and care for patients affected by limb loss or amputation by supporting the personalized design and customization of prosthetic limbs, physical therapy and rehabilitation, pain management and mental health support.

However, it is important to ensure that AI is implemented responsibly and ethically, and that patient privacy and safety are maintained throughout the process.

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