Newsroom

Date: 10/24/2011

Taking Right Steps toward Recovery with New Tool

Innovative equipment being used by top institutions across the country — John Hopkins, Mayo Clinic - is helping physical therapists at Community Hospital improve walking in patients after illness or injury and reduce their risk of falling. Community Hospital in Munster is currently the only facility in Northwest Indiana using the GAITRite Portable Walkway System to enhance patient care.

The GAITRite system consists of a portable, electronic mat that connects to a computer system with a camera. As the patient walks across the 24-foot mat, sensors capture the arrangement and position of each footstep on the mat. Then, the computer software calculates the timing and distance of each step, creating a record of the patient’s gait pattern. The video camera records the action.

“GAITRite provides video and computer analysis that is helpful to our physical therapists’ gait training care plan,” said Kevin Gahan, P.T., director of Therapy Services at Community Hospital. “With this additional information, we can better assess the patient’s walk and those factors that affect the safety and quality of each step.”

A computer-generated report and walk video gives the therapist additional data that helps clarify why the patient has an impaired walk, difficulty with weight bearing or maintaining balance. It can also help the physical therapist determine which walking aid — crutches, walker, cane or brace — will work best in each case. While the GAITRite instrumentation provides the data, the healthcare team still needs to interpret that data to be able to put the most effective treatment plan in place.

“We use GAITRite to justify or support our individualized care plan for each patient,” said Priscilla Mulesa, M.S., P.T., GCS, Community Hospital physical therapist. “It shows that, yes, within this specific timeframe, our patient has improved this much and still have more to go, but we’re on the right track.”

With GAITRite, therapists can evaluate patients before and after surgical procedures, with and without orthotic devices and with prosthetic limbs. Results can be saved in the computer database and can be viewed by all of the members of the patient care team. The results can also be printed out for physician reports and to chart the patient’s progress.

“This level of objective data wasn’t available through the hospital clinic prior to GAITRite,” according to Brian Steinberg, licensed certified orthotist from COPE: Center for Orthotic & Prosthetic Excellence. COPE works in a collaborative effort to provide a team approach to patient care.

“It’s beneficial to the patient because they can actually see how they are walking,” said Mulesa, “But it’s also beneficial to the care team because with GAITRite, we have the ability to fine-tune our treatment. The objective data also helps us make sure each patient is getting the most appropriate care.”

For more information about therapy services at Community Hospital, Community Hospital Fitness Pointe or Community Hospital Outpatient Centre in St. John click here. To arrange outpatient physical therapy with your physician’s order at Community Hospital in Munster, call 219-836-4527.