The ‘Wearable Breathing Trainer’

Children with shortness of breath can be referred to a paediatric (lung) doctor. The shortness of breath may be caused and/or aggravated because the child does not inhale and exhale properly (dysfunctional breathing), whether or not in combination with asthma. It is important that children learn to breathe correctly, both at rest and during activities. The paediatric physiotherapist in hospital and/or primary care is involved in administering various tests and instructing them on proper breathing. The instruction for adequate breathing includes placing the physiotherapist’s hands on the child’s abdomen. The child is instructed to ‘breathe in and out through the belly’. By the moving hands on the belly, the child can see whether the breath is being taken in- and out correctly. In addition, the child places his/her hands between the hands of the physiotherapist. In this way the child can also feel/experience how the belly and ribs should move during the breathing exercise. After the instruction and the first exercise with the paediatric physiotherapist, it is the intention that the child also performs the exercises at home. The parents/carers are involved in the process with the paediatric physiotherapist, and support/coach children during the exercises at home.

Children sometimes experience the breathing exercises at home as boring, and it is better if they can perform the exercises more independently without support and coaching from parents/carers. Therefore, a new technological innovation is under development called the Wearable Breathing Trainer (WBT) which aims to motivate and support children at home in performing the breathing exercises.

The design of the WBT consists of a vest, in which sensors and lights are interwoven. WBT also consists of a serious game in the form of an app on the smartphone. The sensors provide tactile feedback in the form of vibrations on the child’s abdomen and/or chest. This feedback replaces the tactile feedback normally given with the hands on the stomach/chest. The lights are intended as part of the serious game. The game is about making a space journey. The number of lights that come on after the breathing exercise is a reflection of how well the exercise was performed. After the exercise, the number of lit lights can be scanned with a smartphone and translated into play points that the child can use for an exciting space journey.

To further develop the WBT, we would like you to look at the following questions:

  • How should the WBT be interwoven with the existing working method at the paediatric physiotherapist and home exercises?
  • What will the customer journey (patient journey) look like for the child with shortness of breath with the use of the WBT, calculated from the diagnosis of dysfunctional breathing to evaluation and completion of home practice with the WBT?
  • What does the healthcare and market system look like with the use of the WBT? Which financial and legal aspects are involved?

Cluster: Sport and Technology

This project contributes to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):