Tech-enabled rehab provides real-time treatment for driving-induced PTSD symptoms

A California technology company and the Department of Veterans Affairs have teamed on a program to monitoring how veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder handle the pressures of driving and provide immediate treatment.

The program integrates data from physical sensors placed on the veteran to monitor heart rate and respiration with vehicle data such as speed, braking and steering, according to an announcement from the tech company, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Fujitsu Laboratories of America. Fujitsu partnered with Steve Woodward, Ph.D., a researcher at nearby VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

According to Fujitsu, veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, especially those subjected to blasts from improvised explosive devices, are more likely to be involved in auto accidents and to have problems adjusting to normal driving. The Palo Alto VA hospital set up remote monitoring sensors from Fujitsu in a car and on the veteran driving it to "gather multiple streams of physical and physiological data," according to the announcement.

The technology synchronized, analyzed and visualized the data, with the results used for real-time biofeedback and interventions, Fujitsu and Woodward said. The program has been under way for some time, but new technology improves the data synchronization and analysis.

Treatments include cognitive appraisal and breathing therapy, according to InformationWeek Healthcare, which reports that about one-third of VA hospitals offer so-called "driving rehab" therapy.

As part of a treatment study, the VA investigators gather data on veterans' reactions in particular situations during their drives while administering treatments that include cognitive appraisal and breathing re-training. This is part of "driving rehab" therapy that veterans are offered at about a third of VA hospitals.

In addition to monitoring speed, steering and acceleration, the vehicle sensors register factors on the road that could trigger symptoms of PTSD and include GPS locational data, InformationWeek reports. A rehab specialist in the car with the veteran treats the driver based on the analysis and feedback, the magazine says.

To learn more:
- read the Fujitsu announcement
- here's the InformationWeek article

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