Early detection of changes in intrinsic capacity is key for managing the preservation of the resources needed for older adults to adapt to health stressors that occur throughout their lives. Effective tools for monitoring intrinsic capacity are currently inexistent or bound to lab settings. At the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Prof. Ivan Bautmans introduced, refined, and validated muscle fatigability as a direct and objective outcome parameter of the exhaustion component of frailty in elderly persons. FORTO 2.0 offers a commercial-grade muscle fatigability self-assessment system, with effective longitudinal data recording, prone to act as an early warning system for diminishing resistance to and delayed recovery from health stressors.
The system works by measuring the maximum force that the user can sustain in a handgrip task, and is designed to be used autonomously, potentially contributing to the early detection of diminished resistance. Elderly persons can perform the self-assessment using their smartphones, with the results of each test being stored on a cloud platform. The handgrip strength measurement is performed using a handheld device, capable of assessing muscle fatigability and the capacity to recruit reserves, through a handgrip force measurement protocol. A major barrier to the practical implementation of the test in daily practice is the existing handgrip force measurement devices either require the evaluation by a trained assessor, or involve hardware only suitable for use in experimental conditions, operated by experienced staff, and require laborious data post-processing before obtaining clinically meaningful information.
A team led by Prof. Hugo Plácido da Silva and Prof. Ana Fred, from the Instituto de Telecomunicações (IT) Pattern and Image Analysis (PIA) group is changing this paradigm, through the development of a novel wireless and portable device, designed with an ergonomic and conformable form factor. The silicone rubber bulb is highly compressible, hence being comfortable to use in the handgrip test by the elderly person, even in frail and/or ill state). A high-performance data acquisition system, enables the precise measurement of the time-pressure curve during a sustained maximal handgrip effort, with wireless transmission of the collected data to a mobile app, which records the information and sends it to a central cloud platform.
FORTO 2.0 is sponsored by the Active Assisted Living (ALL) Programme Collaborative Project grants, led by the VUB Frailty in Ageing (FRIA). It involves other research centers, medical centers, and end-user institutions, including older adults (primary), healthcare professionals (secondary), and health insurers (tertiary). Belgium-based company UniWeb, in charge of the manufacturing and commercialization of the finalized system.