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Staying ahead of the value-based curve with robotics

May 30, 2019
By Eric Dusseux

While healthcare payment models remained stagnant for some time, 2015 marked the beginning of a shift from models centered around volume of care to models focused on value of care. As a result, healthcare facilities and systems are increasingly rewarded for providing a high quality of care rather than a large quantity. As these value-based models take hold and become more widespread, executives, in some cases, must completely reimagine the ways in which their facilities deliver care.

How health systems can improve care
With the livelihoods of their facilities depending on providing greater value to patient care, healthcare executives need to look in every nook and cranny for opportunities to improve efficiency. Robotic devices may provide this solution. These technologies are a great management tool for tracking performance; allowing the documentation of the therapy activity and the progress of patients throughout their rehabilitation journey, both within a session and over an episode of care.

Healthcare systems will rely heavily on their human personnel to drive improvements but may exponentially enhance care by employing robotics. One area where this is well-documented is physical therapy, for which many facilities use robotics to help patients regain mobility or lost function following stroke or neurological conditions.

Patients deserve better care
Physical therapy is in high demand, especially for survivors of stroke. About 15 million people in the world are diagnosed with stroke every year. Anyone fortunate enough to survive stroke — America’s third leading killer — may then face long-term physical disabilities. These people require physical therapy in order to restore mobility, and when it comes to such vital functions, they deserve every ounce of help they can get.

Historically, human therapists have completely driven physical therapy, with sessions including various exercises, retaining tasks, and stretches designed to help patients recover balance and strength. Studies indicate that this kind of therapy yields somewhere between 32 and 80 upper-limb movements per one-hour session. Neuroscience research indicates that there is plenty of room for improvement of human-only physical therapy, but only a certain level of improvement is possible without adding new technologies.

By incorporating robotics powered by artificial intelligence, facilities have been able to record between 600 and 1,000 movements per one-hour physical therapy session, exponentially greater than the number of motions produced by human-only therapy. This is primarily because robotics can both guide — assisting the patient where needed — and detect movements that the naked human eye cannot. It is worth noting this robotic therapy does not completely eliminate the human therapist, who still provide patients with much-needed individualized therapy planning, care and support. Clinicians who complement their care with robotics are released from many repetitive and manually intensive tasks, allowing them to focus on direct interaction with patients and optimizing their recovery. Together, humans and robots are providing patients throughout the world with better and more expedient care.

Widespread adoption
That’s only the remarkable progress in physical therapy and rehabilitation. Robotics are also being integrated in other fields of medicine and healthcare. While this technology has a lot of possibilities, none of that is possible without a buy-in from clinicians and frontline caregivers, as well as the C-suite. In all areas of their businesses, healthcare executives owe it to their patients and to their key stakeholders to seek out ways to optimize care, because shifting payment models mean optimizing care is now how you optimize profitability.

About the author: Dr. Eric Dusseux is chief executive officer of BIONIK Laboratories, a robotics company focused on providing rehabilitation and mobility solutions to individuals with neurological and mobility challenges.

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