AI-Powered Motion Tracking Technology for Back Pain and COPD: Interview with Rutger Flohil, US CEO of Kaia Health

Kaia Health, a health technology company based in New York City, has developed a smartphone app that can guide users through exercises to help with back pain and COPD. The technology uses AI powered motion tracking technology to monitor users’ movements through a smartphone camera, and provides feedback on the exercises being performed. The app can help users to perform therapeutic exercises correctly, and maximize their effectiveness.

Lower
back pain is a major source of discomfort and disability for many people around
the world. However, rather than rely solely on drug treatments, physicians are
increasingly coming to realize the value of exercise programs as a first-line
therapy for lower back pain. However, such exercises must be performed
correctly to maximize benefit, and avoid aggravating the condition further.

To address this, Kaia Health has developed its app specifically to help users to perform therapeutic exercises correctly. However, the app does not just provide help with physical therapy, but also provides psychological and educational support for users, and with the aim that a multimodal approach will be more effective.

In a recent peer-reviewed study in NPJ Digital Medicine, a group of patients with non-specific lower back pain showed a significant reduction in pain levels after three months using the Kaia app, compared with a control group of patients who received physiotherapy and an online education intervention.

The
company also offers a version of the app for COPD sufferers, which aims to help
with pulmonary rehabilitation to provide relief from COPD symptoms. Pulmonary
rehabilitation can have significant effects on COPD patient quality of life,
breathlessness, and the ability to do exercise, and some studies have shown
that these effects can be greater than many other COPD treatments.

See
a promotional video about the Kaia app below.

Medgadget had the opportunity to ask Rutger
Flohin, CEO of Kaia Health some questions about the app.

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: How did you get interested and involved in this area?

Rutger Flohil, Kaia Health: Our founder Konstantin,
introduced me to Kaia Health around 2 years ago. I was immediately intrigued by
the challenge of how to provide scalable and cost-effective solutions to the
increasing number of people that are suffering from chronic conditions. It is
very exciting to work for an innovative company that is using technology
solutions to confront this issue and I truly believe we can have a meaningful
impact on the many people that are suffering today.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the impact of non-specific lower back pain on patients and wider society.

Rutger Flohil: One of the most common
forms of chronic pain globally is musculoskeletal lower back pain (MSK LBP),
which affects up to 40% of the population aged 18-65 years and costs billions
of dollars each year in treatment and lost productivity. As a result, MSK
disorders such as MSK LBP are one of the most expensive health issues for
self-insured employers. Furthermore, MSK LBP is the largest driver of long- and
short-term disability claims. We are excited that with Kaia we can provide an
alternative to costly and invasive surgery or medication with a high risk of
misuse.

Medgadget: How does the app work in practice?

Rutger Flohil: On a daily basis the user
gets presented with a customized 15-minutes program on their phone consisting
of physical training sessions, educational content and mindfulness/relaxation
exercises. 

The daily program is based on the user’s condition and
the feedback that the user provides throughout the program. This means that
each of our users gets a unique program that is at all times tailored to their
specific needs.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the features and advantages of the AI-powered motion tracking available with the technology.

Rutger Flohil: Kaia Health has taken a
technology-led approach using AI to create a solution that helps users to
perform therapeutic exercises correctly, and maximize their effectiveness. Our
world-leading 2D motion tracking technology enables users to get real-time
feedback on their exercise performance using their smartphone’s
camera
.

Medgadget: Do you think that the multimodal nature of the technology is key?

Rutger Flohil: Yes, decades of research
have demonstrated that chronic pain is not just physical. Chronic pain is
caused by a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social (i.e.,
“biopsychosocial”) factors. Therefore, addressing chronic pain requires an
integrated, multidisciplinary, mind-body approach that takes these complex
factors into account. That’s where Kaia Health’s multimodal approach to pain
comes in.

Medgadget: How does the COPD version of the app help COPD sufferers to alleviate their symptoms? How does this treatment approach differ from that for lower back pain?

Rutger Flohil: Pulmonary rehabilitation is the gold standard treatment for COPD and the primary outcome is to improve the quality of life of patients, allowing them to better cope in everyday life with this incurable disease. Access to pulmonary rehabilitation is limited due to inadequate resources and cost constraints. This app expands availability to any patient in need, including those with transportation challenges or those located in rural areas. It also has a holistic mind-body treatment approach due to the chronic nature of the disease, even though the disease area is quite different to lower back pain.

Link: Kaia Health…