Norwegian version

Designing an intelligent gamified solution for treatment of scoliosis among children and adolescents

This PhD project focuses on needs and frustrations of patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis that can be improved by digital technology.

Our study is aimed at patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and the frustrations they have to face during their treatment together with their family caregivers.

What are patients’ and their family caregivers’ needs and how can the current Norwegian health care service be improved by implementing a digital solution – e.g. a smartphone application.

The overall aim of this project is to co-create, test and validate the first service of a personalized gamified, mobile physiotherapy and treatment solution for the children and teenagers with scoliosis, which has not been investigated or offered to the patients in Norway before.

  • Participants

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  • More about the project

    Scoliosis is a common term used for a group of conditions that feature alterations in the shape and position of the spine, thorax, and trunk. It is a multifactorial disorder in which the cause is unknown in the majority of cases.

    If it is left untreated, scoliosis may lead to severe trunk deformities, which consequently limit the capacity and function of the chest for its biomechanical role in respiration, exercise capacity, general well-being, and ability to work.

    Impaired quality of life because of deformity is not only related to physical health but dramatically affects the mental health of affected individuals.

    A major group of patients with scoliosis are children and adolescents, who may start healthy but develop scoliosis during a rapid growth period. There is also a gender effect in scoliosis, where it is seen much more frequently in girls during growth with a surge at puberty.

    The progression of idiopathic scoliosis is much lower after the spinal growth is over. 

    The goal of treatment

    About 10 percent of the diagnosed cases need conservative treatment and 0.1-0.3 percent need to undergo corrective surgery for the deformity. The goal of treatment in scoliosis is to stop or minimize curve progression as early as possible, and in particular at its common peak of appearance at puberty.

    This will consequently help in preventing or treating respiratory dysfunction, spinal central pain, and more successful postural correction. Therefore, conservative treatment must be considered in which a multidimensional treatment plan is offered.

    Patient and family education, psychotherapy, systematic monitoring of outcomes, assessment of patient compliance, and verification and modification of methods during treatment are essential points to include.

    Treatment challenges

    There are several challenges related to the scoliosis treatment. First, a key challenge in scoliosis treatment is how to motivate children and teenagers around 11–14 years to follow up the treatment plan including the use of a very uncomfortable brace and doing daily physiotherapy activities according to the plan made by an expert team (physicians, physiotherapists, and psychologists).

    One common feature of conservative treatments is to actively involve the patient and caregivers in order to achieve an optimal outcome. The advancement of online access and growing support groups and forums also offer important features that positively affect the patients and their adherence to treatment plans.

    The second challenge is how to know the treatment status to adjust the treatment plans. Now, in Norway, scoliosis patients lack competent personalized digital treatment, especially in the domain of physiotherapeutic exercises.

    Therefore, there is a need to build a personalized digital scoliosis treatment service that supports an expert team to provide better help to motivate and help children and adolescents with scoliosis to conduct successful treatment in their growing period closely involving their parents.

    Project aims

    The aim of this PhD project is to co-create, test, and validate the first service of a personalized gamified, mobile physiotherapy and home treatment solution for children and teenagers with scoliosis, which has not been investigated or offered to patients in Norway before.

    This service also aims to introduce physiotherapy in the form of gamified elements that children and adolescents can easily access using their own laptops or desktops and use together with their parents and encourage higher treatment compliance.

    The research group will determine the need for a personalized gamified mobile physiotherapy and treatment solution for the children and teenagers with scoliosis – e.g., their needs.

    Current scoliosis services will be mapped and see how this can be improved using digital personalized and gamified service. What kind of content the scoliosis solution should have to motivate the patients to follow the treatment plan?

    The companies, end users, and expert teams will be involved to co-create and continuously test the first prototype of gamified, personalized mobile physiotherapy and treatment intervention for children and teenagers with scoliosis.

    The prototype of the solution will be preliminary validated with the children or adolescents in Norway to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the solution in terms of usability, fidelity, and motivation.

  • Collaboration

    • YouWell – E-health platform, building digital health services
    • The Norwegian Spine and Back Pain Association

    The project is conducted in close collaboration between the Design for Health Research Group and several hospitals in Norway.