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Q&A: New robotics being adopted for physical therapy (Includes interview)

The application of the BIONIK InMotion Arms is to assist patients after stroke or neurological impairment. BIONIK’s InMotion robotic rehabilitation systems use artificial intelligence to provide the required assistance.

Kindred, which has 1,894 U.S. locations, began installing the robots during January 2019. To find out more about the technology and application, Digital Journal spoke with BIONIK CEO and Director Eric Dusseux.

Digital Journal: What does the BIONIK InMotion Arm Robotic System do?

Eric Dusseux: The InMotion Arm Robot is used daily by Occupational and Physical Therapists across the world to help stroke survivors and people diagnosed with other neurological conditions to reduce debilitating upper limb impairment and facilitate return to activities of daily living. The therapy interface guides the patient through task-specific therapy, aiming to improve motor control of the arm by increasing strength, range of motion, and coordination, and providing effective, intensive, assistance-as-needed sensorimotor therapy. The InMotion ARM Robot also provides an evaluation tool which offers a precise, objective, and evidence-based method of assessing a patient’s motor control and tracking their progress both within and across therapy sessions.

DJ: Which groups of patients will benefit most from the technology?

Dusseux: Extensive research has shown InMotion Robots are effective for wide range of patient populations with neuromuscular impairments including: Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, hemiplegic shoulder pain, and muscle spasticity.

Within the clinical setting, InMotion Robots are also being used and showing promising results for patients with other diagnoses including Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI), cerebellar conditions, Brachial Plexus injuries, and some musculoskeletal conditions.

DJ: How does robotics benefit stroke patients?

Dusseux: Rehabilitation robotic technology has been designed to optimize the motor recovery process following stroke by harnessing the principles of neuroplasticity and motor learning, which are often not feasible or practical to deliver within the limitations of conventional therapy methods. Neuroscience research demonstrates that the brain requires an appropriate level of high intensity, high repetition, engaging, and meaningful therapy with adequate, timely feedback in order to restore sensorimotor pathways and motor function post-stroke.

InMotion Robots deliver this evidence-based therapy by providing over 1,000 discrete movement repetitions and including regular and objective patient feedback throughout the session. With 30 therapy protocols available with the InMotion Arm Robot, the patient and clinician also have a wide selection of activities to individualize the therapy to their impairments, interests, and goals. The objective measures of the InMotion Evaluation tool also assists with patient motivation and monitoring of therapy response through graphs, game scores, and visual feedback. All of these features ensure the patient is exposed to adequate therapy intensity within an enriched environment shown to stimulate brain recovery following stroke.

DJ: How has the BIONIK InMotion Arm Robotic System been tested?

Dusseux: InMotion Robots have been tested by leading medical centers globally in dozens of controlled clinical studies, including large randomized controlled trials, involving over 1,500 patients since 1994. These studies have demonstrated that the InMotion Robots are a safe, feasible, efficient, and effective evaluation and therapy tool.

For example, in one multi-center, randomized controlled trial involving 127 chronic stroke survivors with moderate to severe upper-limb impairment, InMotion assist-as-needed therapy demonstrated significant improvement in arm movement, function, and quality of life. The study also found that “the improvements provide evidence of potential long-term benefits of rehabilitation and challenge the widely held clinical belief that gains in motor function are not possible for long term stroke survivors.”

DJ: How was the artificial intelligence developed?

Dusseux: BIONIK’s suite of InMotion rehabilitation robots are the result of decades of groundbreaking biomedical engineering research and development at the Eric P. and Evelyn E. Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The founders of the technology have been collaborating with rehabilitation experts, patients, and their families from around the world since the first clinical research device was installed in 1994.

DJ: How is the technology funded?

Dusseux: The development of BIONIK’s proprietary technologies and patient research foundation has been primarily funded by equity investments from forward looking individuals. The make up of this investor base has progressed from original Angel investors to a core group of strategic investors and plans are in place to further broaden the investor base. Along the way, BIONIK has also benefited from occasional government investments and grants.

DJ: What has been the response from the medical profession?

Dusseux: The response has been positive. We have more than 250 robots installed in hospital and research centers worldwide, and recently signed a multi-year national partnership with Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services (KHRS) for the placement of InMotion ARM robots in multiple facilities.

How are you marketing the technology? The benefits of our technology have been proven and published in over 200 scientific publications, including 67 peer reviewed journals. This scientific validation is the cornerstone of our go-to-market positioning for both the medical and scientific communities. Our efforts include exhibiting and speaking at relevant trade shows and conferences globally, sponsorships, trade media coverage and advertising, (APTA, AMRPA, AOTA…), digital advertising, a revamped web presence, as well as social media and CRM outreach.

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Finally, we host local and national media events during new system installations. During these installs, we produce video content that features our customers and their patients which increase brand awareness, reaffirm patient outcomes and highlight ROI, which bolsters both BIONIK and our partners in the neurorecovery revolution. One example includes an interview with the Fox News Dallas affiliate for the installation of 2 robots at TLC Galveston, just before last summer.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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