Back in November of 2016 at Milano’s Hacking Health Hackathon, the WATCh-ME team developed an award-winning idea for assisting children with developmental delays and their caregivers through their rehabilitation programs.
The project was initially conceived by psychologists and researchers Livio Provenzi and Lorenzo Giusti who based it on their practice at the Scientific Institute IRCCS E. Medea of Bosisio Parini, one of the most important research hospitals in Italy and the only Italian one recognized for rehabilitation and research in the field of developmental disabilities . Livio pitched and convinced designers, students and engineers to join in on the effort and helped develop a proof of concept over the course of the hackathon.
The team brought three awards home, including two entry tickets to BioUpper’s acceleration program and PoliHub Incubation program. The WATCh-ME team made it through the BioUpper Training Week and the semi-final phase through an improved and refined pitch. “Everybody on the team is just so surprised by how fast things are going – they went from joining me on a hackathon adventure to running a startup sprint!” says Livio.
The team now consists of 9 passionate members: Livio Provenzi and Lorenzo Giusti, psychotherapists and researchers, Sara Monacchi, product designer, Ana Carolina Falcao, service designer, Valentina Quaroni, physicist, Germano Infante e Mario Aricò, engineers, Luca Fumagalli, student in economical sciences, Martina Ricci, psychologist.
WATCh-ME: Maximizing rehabilitation exercises by including the mother
Children presenting developmental delays such as mental retardation or cognitive impairments are usually more limited in their interaction with their parents, further increasing delay for emotional, behavioral and social development. Rehabilitation generally focuses on cognitive impairments and is directed on the child alone. Devices can help, but little has been done technology-wise to strengthen the parent-child dynamic despite this being a key factor for successful rehabilitation.
WATCh-ME aims at making home rehabilitation easier, rewarding and playful, and ultimately more efficient, with hopes to reduce, and possibly cancel out the need to conduct hospital rehabilitation programs.
“Through WATCh-ME we aim at improving the effectiveness of cognitive and behavioral rehabilitation therapies and to sustain continuity of care.”
The idea consists in two wearable devices (for mother and child) connected to each other and to a third wearable object (to be attached to a toy or a third person, e.g., sibling) meant to support focused, sustained, and joint attention in children diagnosed with diverse impairing developmental disability conditions. WATCh-ME is going to provide precise data on these children attentional skills and improvements, engaging the parents as active partners of the therapy and making the home-based rehabilitation more playful and enjoyable. “Through WATCh-ME we aim at improving the effectiveness of cognitive and behavioral rehabilitation therapies and to sustain continuity of care.” says co-founder Livio Provenzi. Benefits are estimated both for the families – i.e., greater improvements quantified on a daily basis – and for the hospital units – i.e., possibility to obtain data and to monitor obstacles and facilitators of effective interventions.
Thanks to the collaboration between supporting BioUpper and PoliHub programs, WATCh-ME is getting the support needed to develop a prototype and has just made through the final round of BioUpper’s national competition, with 50 000 € as the grand prize for each top three finalists.
The team’s goal is to present a functional prototype for the grand final in April at Cariplo Factory, a Milano foundation supporting BioUpper and host to Hacking Health Milano’s November hackathon.
Beyond the competition, WATCh-ME’s aim is to enter a validation process in a randomized clinical trial within the next two years, through its main sponsor and partner, IRCCS E. Medea. As the benefits of WATCh-ME are both for families and hospitals, the team is discussing strategies to reach the market through differentiated marketing pathways before 2020.