Frustrated with the inefficient manual gait therapy of the early 1990s, a young engineering student decided to build a robot to do the heavy lifting as well as the movement of the impaired legs. That robot turned into the first Lokomat, a globally successful rehabilitation device that spawned an entire company.
“Success stories spur us on”
In the early 1990s, Gery Colombo was conducting functional gait therapy at the Balgrist University Hospital in Zurich as a part of his doctoral studies. Back then, functional gait therapy was done manually and was strenuous for both the patient and the three therapists needed to perform the ordeal, wherein one used to place and securely hold the patient in an upright position, while there were one at each of the patient’s feet in order to move the legs in a correct walking pattern over a treadmill. Unsurprisingly, this type of therapy was limited as the therapists were lifting heavy loads and would get tired after a short span of time. Gery adds: “The limiting factor was actually not the patient’s own potential. It was us, the therapists, with our physical limitations and lack of time. Additionally, the manual therapy used to cause me frequent back pain.”
The method was neither efficient nor effective and being an engineer, Gery knew there had to be a better solution. There had to be a machine that could solve the problems with manual therapy. Consequently, he asked two of his friends, economist Peter Hostettler and fellow engineer Matthias Jörg, to join him in his quest to revolutionize gait therapy. Both men were intrigued with the idea. “They were all for it,” Gery recalls. “They agreed to build the machine I was imagining and we got straight to work.”
“Working together has benefited each individual company”
The trio started developing a prototype that would later become the Lokomat – a robot that allows intensive gait therapy by supporting the patient’s bodyweight and guiding his legs. This robot that had taken the manual labor out of rehabilitation therapy was the first among many steps towards forming their company, Hocoma. “The company name is derived from our names”, Gery explains. “Ho as in Hostettler, Co as in Colombo, and Ma as in Matthias.”
Today, Hocoma is the global market leader for the development, manufacturing, and marketing of robotic and sensor-based devices for functional movement therapy. Its Lokomat has sold more than 800 times and can be found in every leading rehabilitation facility around the world. In its headquarter near Zurich, Switzerland, Hocoma employs around 150 people. The medical technology company also has subsidiaries in the USA, Slovenia, Singapore, and Chile and works closely with its Dutch sister company Motek as well as its Chinese parent company DIH International. “The merger in 2016 was very successful,” Gery says. “Hocoma, Motek, and DIH International share the same vision of what rehabilitation needs to look like in future and working together has benefited each individual company.”
In collaboration with its partners, Hocoma offers efficient solutions with advanced technologies for human movement therapy across the entire continuum of rehabilitation. All devices are developed, manufactured, and continuously improved in close cooperation with researchers, clinical partners, and patients. “Our solutions are aimed at patients with gait and balance impairments, arm and hand impairments, and lower back pain,” Gery comments. “They are intended to increase strength, coordination, and endurance in patients with movement disorders caused by stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other neurological diseases and injuries.”
“Simply selling a product isn’t enough”
As a total solution provider, Hocoma also offers a broad portfolio of dedicated services: The Clinical Services package encompasses clinical integration as well as education and training; the Research Services package is intended to kickstart customers’ research projects; the Technical Services package offers peace of mind with its around-the-clock technical support; the Business Design Services package supports rehabilitation facilities of all sizes in implementing the best infrastructure; the Financing Services package helps each customer to find the right financing option to suit their budget; and the Marketing Services package lets customers stand out and get noticed while at the same time focusing on their core competencies – offering the best therapy to their patients. “These days, simply selling a product isn’t enough”, Gery mentions. “Offering a wide range of services that integrate advanced technologies into our customers’ daily business is equally important.”
Hocoma’s customers comprise rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, and clinics around the globe. But Hocoma’s motivation is focused mainly on its customers’ customers – the thousands of patients whose lives Hocoma’s solutions are improving every day. Gery confirms, “We get regular feedback from the clinics about people beating the odds and making unexpected progress thanks to our devices. Those success stories make me and all the Hocoma family very happy and proud; they drive us and strengthen us in our commitment to improve millions of lives with our technologies.”
Making use of the Neural Plasticity of the Brain
Research has shown that the healthy parts of a patient’s brain can take over functions of the impaired areas. This is called neural plasticity. The key to success is highly intensive training with many repetitions and active patient effort – the sooner the better. All Hocoma solutions make use of this key principle as they combine highly repetitive, task-oriented movements with real-time feedback in game-like environments, which keep the patients engaged during the therapy sessions. The motivating and challenging exercises assist the gradual reorganization of the brain, which subsequently allows the restoration of movement and functionality to the affected parts.
The Erigo® – Empowering Patients from the Very Beginning
The Erigo combines gradual verticalization with robotic movement therapy to ensure the necessary safety for the stabilization of patients in an upright position. Due to the unique afferent stimulation provided by the Erigo and the flexible harness, patients can be trained intensively and safely already in a very early stage of rehabilitation.The Erigo combines gradual verticalization with robotic movement therapy to ensure the necessary safety for the stabilization of patients in an upright position. Due to the unique afferent stimulation provided by the Erigo and the flexible harness, patients can be trained intensively and safely already in a very early stage of rehabilitation.The Erigo combines gradual verticalization with robotic movement therapy to ensure the necessary safety for the stabilization of patients in an upright position. Due to the unique afferent stimulation provided by the Erigo and the flexible harness, patients can be trained intensively and safely even at a very early stage of rehabilitation.
The Lokomat® and the Andago® – Relearning to walk
The Lokomat is the world’s leading robotic medical device that provides highly repetitive physiological gait training – especially to severely impaired patients. Nearly 300 studies published in peer-reviewed journals have witnessed its effectiveness. The Andago bridges the gap between treadmill-based gait training on the Lokomat and free over ground walking. It utilizes mobile robotic technology to sense and actively follow a patient’s movement intention, while providing steady, dynamic bodyweight support. With the Andago, patients can train independently and intensively without being limited to one room.
The Armeo® Therapy Concept – Regaining Arm and Hand Functionality
The Armeo Therapy Concept is a sustainable and powerful therapy concept for individuals who have suffered strokes, traumatic brain injury, or neurological disorders resulting in arm and hand impairment. It comprises three solutions, ArmeoPower, ArmeoSpring, and ArmeoSenso, which targets severely, moderately, or mildly impaired patients, respectively.
The Valedo® Therapy Concept – Fighting Back Pain at the Clinic and at Home
Back pain is one of the most common health conditions, affecting more than 80 percent of people at some point in their lives. Exercise therapy is a recommended treatment approach. The Valedo Therapy Concept uses effective and motivating exercises to improve patient compliance. The innovative sensor technology assists therapists in improving their patients’ motor control and movement awareness at the clinic and at home.
Source :- The 10 Most Innovative Robotics Companies to Watch 2017
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