Hello! Welcome to another post, in which we’ll explore exoskeletons in paraplegia rehabilitation.
Exoskeletons in Rehabilitation
ReWalk offer the ability of paraplegia rehabilitation using exoskeletons, in which providing two exoskeleton models for home and clinical centre use. The exoskeletons are unique, as they allow users without lower body control to stand, walk and step by changing their center of gravity. Check out this BBC News video that explains the life-changing effects of the ReWalk exoskeleton further, in which documenting a paralyzed man whom plans to run the London marathon.
Eksobionics are another incumbent firm within the industry, following the success of their “EksoGT” exoskeleton, advancement in “SmartAssist” mobility assist software and “EksoPulse” cloud-based analytics information system, which is shown in the below video.
The U.K. NHS recommends physiotherapy exercises to those with weakness or paralysis, thus improving muscle strength and overcoming walking difficulties, in which standing and walking is described as a long-term goal. Eksobionics have published clinical evidence that patients using an exoskeleton had increased mobility, with a reduction in pain and muscle fatigue; furthermore, providing an immediate ability to begin to stand and walk again at the beginning of the clinical therapy.
Implementing Current Exoskeleton Technology into the NHS
Changing the NHS rehabilitation pathway, in which the ability for the long-term goal of walking to become a short-term goal with exoskeletons, could be a utopian ideology. The fixed costs to the NHS for the EksoGT total £98,000 excl VAT, in which constituting a package deal with software, hardware and staff training; furthermore, the EksoGT has an estimated 4-year lifespan if routine maintenance is carried out, thus creating a need for the ‘optional’ 4-year technical support package at £19,000 excl VAT.
Implementing exoskeletons into the NHS paraplegia rehabilitation pathways will have intangible benefits, such as more efficent patient recovery and wellbeing, alongside resulting tangible benefits like faster patient turnover, thus treating more patients in the same timeframe, saving costs; however, the initial fixed costs are high and require replenishing every 4 years, which with the NHS having an £886m third quarter deficit, may not be a viable option when weighed against the rehabilitation pathways already in place.
In my opinion, the NHS must undergo change to survive and become more sustainable, in which adopting modern innovative medical practices could be an answer; however, whilst I believe the benefits outweigh the costs, this may not equate to a balanced scorecard, in which the current big picture of the NHS being financial goals and reducing the deficit, so investing money to save money may not be a current viable strategy.
Future of Exoskeletons
To conclude, I’d like to highlight a disruptive technology developed by Wandercraft, in which building an exoskeleton that is fully autonomous and does not require additional support. To use the ReWalk and Eksobionics exoskeletons, users must have adequate upper body strength to use the supportive crutches, whereas Wandercraft’s exoskeleton uses advanced algorithims and better hardware to mimic dynamic human movement, using waist motions as the control. For more information about the Wandercraft exoskeleton development, check out the below video presented by Matthieu Masselin, the managing director at Wandercraft.
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