WOMEN-UP: Innovative Technology for At-home Treatment of Urinary Incontinence

This is Julia. She’s 48 years old. When she was four she got her first piano. At age 23 she graduated from music school and started a music career, At 28 she married Tim and they had two children. Soon after their second child she started suffering from urinary incontinence. She didn’t think of her problem as a real disease, but as something natural because of giving birth. Urinary incontinence is any involuntary urine leakage. It is not part of the natural aging process. It is a disease that affects more than 350 million people around the world, costing roughly ten billion dollars in long-term care. Not knowing when or where you might have an incident can affect everything from work to your social life. Fortunately, once diagnosed by a therapist there are things that can be done. One approach for initially managing urinary incontinence is pelvic floor muscle training. PFMT are exercises involving the muscles at the base of the pelvis and report a curate of up to seventy percent if the techniques are done properly. PFMT can be difficult to achieve, muscles are not visible, inaccessible, and feedback is very abstract. Exercises need to be configured and evaluated by a professional, performed correctly and regularly and they need hardware and software to support biofeedback. What if there was a system that allowed women to self-manage their own health from their homes, that also allowed clinicians to track their evolution, making it easier to adapt their schedules in an engaging way, while dramatically reducing the cost of this treatment and the patients waiting list? This is the WOMEN-UP European project. The WOMEN-UP project proposes a portable and comfortable system that will allow surprised PFMT from home through feedback from pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. The mobile application will help patients develop PFMT via online evaluation, which through the website will give healthcare professionals the continuous information needed to asses the training progress and to communicate with a woman and a therapist. Training will be gamified to improve user engagement and learning experience, creating an innovative breakthrough in the management and treatment of this chronic disease. Eight european institutions will be working together over the next three and a half years. Technical partners, research institutions and the end users will work together while also staying in contact with medical associations to ensure the product will meet society’s needs. An important emphasis is being put on the industrial involvement of the project to provide a product that is clearly market-oriented, ensuring that the project developments respond to the market demands, facilitating the patient engagement to treatment and assuring that the ICT-based system is user-friendly and answers the patient’s demands. Let’s get back to Julia. She’s part of the clinical trials in the WOMEN-UP Project. As the project continues, she will be able to train comfortably by herself and have the medical feedback needed to manage UI consistently and safely, contributing to the wellness of women, the advance of science and the identification of UI as a common issue in today’s modern society.

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