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Emerging technologies in physical therapy and rehabilitation: 10 opportunities for health startups and clinicians


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New technology solutions that integrate multiple sensors (such as body tracking), interfaces (virtual reality) and games promise to fundamentally transform, if not disrupt the field of physical therapy and rehabilitation. This presentations shows 10 opportunities for startups and clinicians to make a difference today.

Emerging technologies in physical therapy and rehabilitation: 10 opportunities for health startups and clinicians

  1. 1. Prepared for 5 on emerging technologies in physical therapy & rehabilitation. October 8, Amsterdam Emerging Technologies in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation 10 opportunities for health startups and clinicians to make a difference today
  2. 2. Why should we care?
  3. 3. $849 billion (or 7.7% U.S. GDP) Estimated cost of musculoskeletal injuries & diseases in the U.S., 2004
  4. 4. £ 8.9 billion Estimated annual cost of treatment and productivity loss caused by stroke in the UK. Treatment costs account for approx. 5% of total NHS costs.
  5. 5. The trouble with physical therapy is...
  6. 6. It takes a lot of time. It requires lots of therapists. It’s often painful & boring, leading to poor compliance. Image courtesy of
  7. 7. Here’s ways you can make a difference today 10
  8. 8. 1 Automate exercise guidance & progress monitoring
  9. 9. Researchers at the University of Southampton use Microsoft Kinect to help patients recovering from a stroke. A specially devised algorithm enables therapists to remotely track patients' hand and finger movements and guide them through exercises.
  10. 10. Spain’s VirtualWare developed a ‘VirtualRehab’ system consisting of specialised games for the Kinect and a control centre for clinicians. It enables the clinician to plan exercises, monitor performance and evaluate the progress of the therapy
  11. 11. Swiss startup YouRehab develops wearable interactive therapy devices. YouGrabber enables training for bimanual reaching and grabbing. YouKicker provides training for leg and foot movements.
  12. 12. 2 Improve motivation and compliance through games
  13. 13. Dutch startup DoctorKinetic sells physiotherapy kits based on Kinect and specialised physical therapy games, to enhance motivation and fun factor
  14. 14. Lithuanian startup Devmotion develops therapeutic games for children and transforms medical wards into virtual reality environments
  15. 15. French startup Groupe Genious develops Voracy Fish, a multiplayer serious game for physical rehabilitation of the upper limb.
  16. 16. 3 Change behaviour through online digital coaching
  17. 17. Belgian startup Brandnewhealth develops digital health coaching programs addressing 8 health behaviour domains (including exercising, stress, sleeping, weight etc)
  18. 18. 4 Create more user- friendly interfaces
  19. 19. Estonian startup Cognuse develops a cognitive rehabilitation system using digital ‘BrainTraining’ exercises and a dedicated touchscreen workstation.
  20. 20. 5 Experiment with novel interfaces to stimulate the senses
  21. 21. Dutch startup NYOYN creates large interactive sensory boards, that stimulate the senses (audio, visual & tactile). Used as rehabilitation tool for elderly and people with cognitive disabilities
  22. 22. 6 Enable home-based therapy & exercises
  23. 23. Dutch startup Fysio24 offers live online physiotheraphy support.
  24. 24. German startup KaasaHealth develops physiotherapy software for the iPad, PC and Wii game console (and Wii Balance Board) for home- based exercises
  25. 25. 7 Enable clinical follow-up in a systematic and viable way
  26. 26. Canadian startup Jintronix created a rehab system that allows patients to do exercises at home using Kinect, while their clinician is able to monitor progress and prescribe additional exercises via a secure portal
  27. 27. The Mobile Health Unit of the University of Hasselt and Ziekenhuis Oost Limburg in Belgium have set up a “clinical call center” to support the telemonitoring (& rehabilitation) of cardiac patients. It consolidates and systematically monitors telemonitoring data from various devices and applications (e.g. pedometers, blood pressure, weight, heart rate, medication) and it intervenes or alerts relevant clinicians when necessary.
  28. 28. Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute FOKUS has developed a telemedically assisted therapy and training environment (based on Kinect) to reduce patients’ stay at clinics. It includes a Smartphone linked mobile sensor unit to measure vital signs such as pulse, oxygen saturation levels, and (where applicable) ECG/EKG readings.The physiotherapist monitors this data and can tailor therapy to avoid dangerous levels of stress. (photo © Matthias Heyde/ Fraunhofer FOKUS)
  29. 29. 8 Empower the disabled
  30. 30. BrainControl uses a brain-computer interface technology that interprets electrical signals corresponding with certain brain activity and allows a computer to be controlled with thoughts. Hence, it has potential as an assistive technology for people suffering from ALS, Multiple Scleroris, people in a locked-in state, etc
  31. 31. 9 Use wearable technology to detect and correct problems on the fly
  32. 32. Launched with a KickStarter project, LUMOback is a wearable sensor that alerts you when you’re slouching and guides you (via the accompanying app) to a better posture
  33. 33. Researchers at the University of Utah developed a smart shoe insole (called RapidRehab) to help people correct their gait during rehabilitation. The device relies on force sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, a wireless transmitter and a smartphone app.
  34. 34. 10 Improve diagnosis and treatment by gathering more data
  35. 35. A team at the Children’s National Medical Center in the U.S. are experimenting with the Kinect to help diagnose and treat chronic pain syndromes (which is difficult to diagnose)
  36. 36. Mindmaze combines motion sensing, virtual reality and brain monitoring technology for stroke and brain injury rehabilitation
  37. 37. Need more inspiration? Imagine the potential of these technologies in physical therapy & rehabilitation...
  38. 38. Leap Motion Controller (an $80 consumer device) tracks hand and finger movement in a small 3D space with a claimed accuracy of 1/100th of a millimeter.
  39. 39. MYO armband (by Thalmic Labs) measures electrical activity to detect fine movement from a wearer’s arm, which lets the user wirelessly control a computer (and thus anything else)
  40. 40. Shimmer is a small wireless sensor platform that incorporates wireless ECG, EMG, GSR, Accelerometer, Gyro, Mag, GPS,Tilt and Vibration sensors.
  41. 41. Microsoft’s new Xbox One Kinect can detect (or “see”) your pulse, using a combination of the colour image feed and the infrared sensor
  42. 42. Researchers at the University of Southern California use Kinect to detect whether you are depressed, with 90% accuracy rate
  43. 43. Wearable Games is a graduation project by two game design students that integrates multiple sensors (bend sensors, heart rate) and feedback tech (speakers, shakers, LED screen) in a wearable game platform.
  44. 44. Startup Virtuix takes virtual reality to the next level, allowing gamers to move naturally in a virtual reality
  45. 45. Devices that integrate multiple sensors and interfaces Software for changing behaviour (games and digital coaching) Communication networks & tools The #1 lesson: Look for the sweet spot as four tech domains converge to transform physical therapy and rehabilitation Analytics & Big Data
  46. 46. Consider 7 potential challenges 3
  47. 47. 1 Clinical validation It is necessary It takes time It is expensive How will you fund it? Who will you partner with (startup + university + large tech/pharma)?
  48. 48. 2 Clinical feedback loops Clinicians won’t monitor alerts from multiple devices & systems. How will you make it easy, convenient & secure for clinicians to take part? Work with clinicians, integrate with their systems and interfaces.
  49. 49. 3 Business model Who will pay? (the answer will differ from country to country) Healthcare providers Patients Employers Health insurance Public health/government
  50. 50. What next?
  51. 51. Europe’s networking conference for digital health innovators. Next event’s topic: Emerging technologies in physical therapy & rehabilitation Join us in Amsterdam on October 8