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Four years after entering into a collaboration with researchers at Harvard University to develop wearable exoskeletons for patients with limited mobility, ReWalk Robotics revised the research agreement to extend the terms of the collaboration. Continuing the ongoing project until March 2023, the research team will also investigate how their novel designs for exoskeletons may incorporate features that support the increasing demand for tele-healthcare, including remote data provision, analysis and remote physical therapy for patients with their therapists.
Telehealth is an area of increasing focus for ReWalk. The decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in March 2020 to temporarily add physical and occupational therapy to the list of services that can be provided via telehealth provides a fundamental component to expand telehealth for a large number of patients nationwide. While these changes are in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are currently scoped to expire in June 2020, ReWalk recognizes this telehealth expansion may be extended if the crisis continues and provides an opportunity for the healthcare system to evaluate how telehealth can affect patient care and healthcare economics.
Since 2016, ReWalk has funded a collaborative research project at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The research is led by Conor Walsh, Ph.D., in his Harvard Biodesign Lab, a robotics research laboratory. Walsh is the Paul A. Maeder Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute.
“We are pleased to extend our collaboration with Conor Walsh and his team,” said Larry Jasinski, CEO, ReWalk Robotics. “We have seen that the U.S. healthcare system is quickly evolving to utilize telehealth capabilities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. With our collaborators, we are eager to see how telehealth technology may be incorporated into next-generation exosuits. Such designs may better meet the need for home-based management and rehabilitation therapy for a mobility-challenged patient population.”
The Harvard Biodesign Lab brings together researchers from the engineering, industrial design, apparel, biomechanics, physical therapy, and business communities to develop and translate soft exoskeletons for medical and industrial applications.
“My lab is motivated to advance innovations that address real clinical challenges, in collaboration with clinicians and industry partners, and in response to patients’ evolving needs,” said Walsh. “It’s clear that there is a need for remote home care with feedback and monitoring capability for clinicians. My research team is interested to see how we can optimize our technologies to meet that need as our collaboration with ReWalk continues.”
The Harvard Biodesign Lab’s foundational work on wearable robotics, and the lab’s research collaboration with ReWalk, have already resulted in innovations to benefit patients. Arising technologies licensed by ReWalk enabled the development of the company’s ReStore system, which received FDA clearance in 2019 for use by stroke survivors in the rehabilitative setting.
Under the revised agreement, effective April 30, 2020, ReWalk’s initial funding commitment to this research collaboration will now be spread out over an additional nine months.