Within the last decade, we’ve seen incredible progress in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. Innovators have been seeking out ways to meld man and machine and, in some areas, remove man altogether. In robotics, we’re seeing delivery drones , security robots, and more. In AI, chatbots , self-driving cars, and voice recognition have all made significant strides.
Perhaps most importantly, we’re seeing incredible advances in AI and robotic technologies within healthcare that are improving patient treatment and care. One specific practice area capitalizing on both technologies is physical therapy — with a particular focus on people who suffer from mobility issues due to neurological injury.
Bots are helping humans provide improved care
While traditional therapy methods are tried and true and still yield results, recent research around motor learning interference and motor memory consolidation has shown that the optimal way to treat patients with neurological disorders is through a collaborative effort of robots and human therapists. The robots focus on reducing physical impairments and the therapists assist in translating the gains in impairment into function.
According to the Worldwide Health Organization (WHO), 15 million people suffer a stroke worldwide each year , with the United States accounting for almost 800,000 of those instances. A third of those people – approximately five million – are left permanently disabled and in need of some sort of physical therapy or patient care to help them attempt to regain even a fraction of their original physical mobility.
Regaining Motor Skills with a Bot
The loss of motor skills is a common occurrence for stroke survivors, with impairment leaving it difficult to stand, walk, or complete simple tasks like tying shoelaces or squeezing a hand. Current care methods rely on physical therapists manually helping patients learn how to balance and strengthen muscles through a series of exercises and stretches. While this has certainly been an effective treatment over the past decade, traditional physical therapy for stroke survivors and others suffering from neurological injuries/disorders falls far behind what is possible when technology is integrated into the course of care.
The advancement of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, along with the evolution of robotics, has produced commercialized robotic therapy solutions that have an exceptional capacity for measurement and immediate interactive response. Consider this – a human therapist can likely only guide a patient through a handful of movements during a session, with little ability to movements that aren’t outwardly significant. A therapy robot can guide a patient through hundreds of movements during a session. It can sense even the slightest response while adjusting to the patient’s continually-changing physical ability. […]