As a student at Columbia University, Blynn Shideler, now a medical student at Stanford School of Medicine, came up with his own take on the buddy system — only spelled it BUDI.
The bracelet called Biofeedback Upper-limb Device for Impairment, the bracelet Shideler and others developed, tracks the movements of children with cerebral palsy — a group of conditions that affect movement, balance and posture.
The idea was that the bracelet could provide real-time feedback to encourage the kids to move their arms to help them build upper body strength and coordination. The bracelet, which monitors movement and flashes reminders about movement to users, turned out to be a successful concept overall. But it was bulky, and for kids to be able to use it in real life, Shideler still had to figure out how to produce and ship it on a large scale.
The project went into hibernation until 2020, when Shideler came to Stanford and volunteered at a rehabilitation center for children with disabilities in San Mateo. The center struggled with limited resources bolstered by the pandemic and it urged Shideler to think about how BUDI could be revamped.
If BUDI could use a screen to display exercises and a wearable device to track movement at the same time, people would be better guided in doing exercises, and it would allow them to enter therapy without having to visit a physiotherapist.
Shideler started making his vision a reality when he attended an introductory course to learn more about CardinalKit, an open-source, scalable platform built for and by software developers, physicians and researchers who create digital healthcare technology.
Passionate about reinvigorating his project, Shideler discussed the idea with Oliver Aalami, MD, a clinical professor of vascular surgery who launched CardinalKit. Aalami encouraged Shideler to take courses and collaborate with researchers at Stanford’s Byers Center for Biodesign to advance the BUDI project.
Over the course of two years, Shideler and a team of students and educators, including Aalami, who is Biodesign’s director of digital health, and Jennifer O’Malley, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurologist, met weekly to discuss a new version. and develop. from BUDI, which is now an app that displays exercises on a smartphone and uses the motion detectors in an Apple Watch.
From August, BUDI will be in the app store, free to download and use by anyone who is interested.
“The goal of the Biodesign program is to advance the careers of innovators like Blynn by teaching them the step-by-step biodesign process, from identifying an unmet clinical need to devising solutions that address the needs of all relevant stakeholders – patient, provider, system, and payer,” said Josh Makower, MD, professor of medicine and bioengineering and director and co-founder of the Center for Biodesign.
As the team iterated through their designs, they added features that allow BUDI to send notifications that encourage physical therapy sessions, help users track progress, and integrate with Apple Health.
Potential users are already looking forward to the new app. Shideler said he’s heard from people — including patients, parents and medical professionals — from around the world who want to know more.
“It’s a single device that leverages modern technology while addressing equity and accessibility gaps, and it promotes user autonomy,” said O’Malley. “It’s an exciting and very welcome innovation.”
This story was originally published through the Stanford Report.
Top shot of BUDI application viewsCourtesy of Blynn Shideler.