Healthcare Devices in the Time of COVID-19—A Talk with GripAble
The interview was published on the 5th of May 2020.
Our way of living has changed drastically over the last couple of months—the pandemic caused us all to stay home and limit our daily activities to the minimum. This involves minor things like no gym or parties, but also more serious issues, such as access to healthcare or rehabilitation. Today, together with Dr. Paul Rinne, the CEO of GripAble, we have a look at the future of at-home healthcare devices, and the company’s take on the role of technology in the rehabilitation process.
GripAble is a smart mobile device for the assessment and training of hand and arm functions; from a simple injury to disabilities due to strokes, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or Parkinson’s. All these people require rehabilitation, which is why we focus on training grip, release, various wrist, and lower arm movements. These movements are performed with the GripAble device and are sent as data to the app. The app offers data analysis for the therapist to track a treatment remotely, plus a range of interactive activities and games for patients that are tailored to their physical and cognitive abilities.
The biggest difference between standard therapy or telerehabilitation systems (more popular now because of the COVID-19) and a sensor-based device like GripAble is that we are able to provide detailed data on the patient’s progress. The only information a therapist can get with a pure telerehabilitation approach is a subjective opinion from a patient on how they feel or how much training they think they have done that week.
We also tried to make our solution as simple as possible, so that it’s easy for a therapist and patient to use, but can give a real value at the same time.
Hand and arm therapy is often performed with outdated equipment, such as cones, foam cubes, wooden blocks, basically anything a therapist can get their hands on to use with a patient. As soon as the patient is left alone, with homework to do hundreds of repetitions of the same movement, the process becomes incredibly boring. We hope to replicate the movements prescribed by the therapist by providing an engaging and motivating way to hit the patient’s targets for the day.
Yes! However, every patient is different and has different needs and abilities. This is why we built GripAble with therapists in mind to recommend the right treatment to patients, but of course, afterward, suitable patients are free to use it remotely alone or with the help of family and carers. Especially in today’s COVID-19 environment, we are in a great position to be able to deliver this tech to people’s homes.
Do you think people are going to trust at-home healthcare devices more because of the pandemic and social distancing?
When it comes to healthcare, people still trust trained professionals and their recommendations. I think in the past few weeks there has been a larger shift in terms of the use of telerehabilitation systems or sensor systems at home. Right now people are scrambling to find the best solutions that could replace traditional healthcare. However, not all the products are ready to answer their needs.
As the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, stakeholders are racing to implement more remote healthcare solutions. What are the threats and benefits you see here?
I can definitely see that many devices are being repurposed for use in healthcare and at home when it wasn’t their intention before the pandemic. For example, many clinics are using Zoom for healthcare appointments now even though it seems to have security issues. The danger I see here is that some companies will try to quickly use this situation and pivot their products to fit the at-home healthcare needs, without properly testing the usability and acceptability of their solutions in this environment first. Testing and having reliable data from the potential users is key in creating a successful and safe product—for instance, we took 7 years of testing, researching, and prototyping before we released GripAble.
We’ve just launched and we’re focused on getting the first few thousand GripAble devices into the community— therapy clinics, hospitals, community care teams, and ultimately to the people who were stripped of their access to standard therapy because of the COVID-19 outbreak. As we grow, we believe GripAble will become the gold standard system for arm assessment and training, embedding a simple yet powerful software platform throughout the entire therapy care pathway, from hospital to home. Once integrated into standard care, the platform will allow for other devices to link in (GripAble has a number of other ‘simple’ devices in their pipeline), capturing large performance and outcome data sets in the rehab population that, as of yet, no other solution has allowed.
If you need support with building your mobile app or connecting it to your embedded device via BLE—get in touch
Senior Communication Specialist
Dr. Paul Rinne