In recent years, demand has grown for physical therapy services across the globe partly because of aging populations. The role of technology in healthcare has become evident with the enhanced rate of survival from medical disorders such as stroke. Robotic rehabilitation and assistive technologies promise to ease stress on the physiotherapy staff and control expenses while refining patients’ quality of life.
Emerging technologies can provide additional therapeutic exercises through robotic interventions, while intelligent prosthetics can enable patients with developmental conditions or motor impairment to gain more independence. Transparency Market Research has studied the growing global market for robotic rehabilitation and assistive technologies.
The buzz around robotic rehabilitation
The applications of robotic rehabilitation and assistive technologies are growing fast, as is the market for these systems. One example is a robot developed at McGill University that helps wheelchair-bound patients to rise and walk. It supports in gait training and neuro-rehabilitation.
Other researchers and companies are developing products using robotics and 3D printing to help patients with movement disorders from an impaired spinal cord or due to stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and more. They could also help alleviate lower back pain.
The global robotic rehabilitation and assistive technologies market will achieve a strong compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.1% from 2017 to 2025, and it will reach a valuation of $2.29 billion by the end of the period, according to Transparency Market Research.
The report analyzed the leading players in the robotic rehabilitation market, including Vincent Medical, Accuray Inc., Ekso Bionics Holdings Inc., DIH Technologies Corp., and Mazor Robotics, which was acquired by Medtronic PLC last year.
In addition, the research firm found that Japan is the most prominent market for these technologies, and it is likely to continue to be for the coming few years. Transparency Market Research identified the following four key areas in the robotic rehabilitation and assistive technologies market.
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1. Robotic rehabilitation systems
Stroke is one of the biggest reasons for adult disability across the globe. It affects a patient’s well-being, independence, and mobility. Recovery is mainly dependent on the intensity and frequency of therapeutic intervention.
However, some patients are not able to exercise as per their recommended schedules because of a lack of physiotherapy resources. this not only hampers their recovery, but it also prolongs the overall period of recovery. In such cases, robotic systems are now seen as a way to offer increased access to therapy exercise.
Hospital and clinical settings can incorporate processes that use robotic rehabilitation and assistive technologies during acute care. Work is continuing on making systems that are small enough and affordable enough for long-term domestic use.
Rehabilitation robotics should be designed to help patients undertake repetitive tasks and exercises for recovery and daily life. These systems can also gather quantitative data about a patient’s performance of the patient and track their progress or condition.
Robotic rehabilitation systems can also help treat children suffering from cerebral palsy (more on that below) and adults with coordination disorders.
2. Assistive robotics
A considerable number of people across the globe are suffering from chronic conditions or disabilities that have limited their physical capabilities. There are three specific groups of individuals who have limited physical capabilities:
- People suffering from some form of congenital disability since birth
- Individuals whose physical capabilities have been limited due to some accident, disease, or illness
- Older people who have gradually lost their physical strength due to natural aging
Treatments including assistive technologies such as exoskeletons and soft robotics can help these groups protect their health and enhance and prolong their independence. For instance, Kinova Inc. makes arm systems to provide upper-body mobility.
3. Intelligent prosthetics
Millions people around the world undergo amputation because of vascular and circulatory problems. Complications arising due to cancer, diabetes, or trauma also force patients to undergo amputations. Intelligent prosthetics can be seen as a viable solution for such patients.
These prosthetics are highly robust and adaptable to the changing situations. An example of such intelligent prosthetics is the Smart BioLeg being developed at the University of Leeds in the U.K. It will be a smart biomimetic, fully adaptable, and self-tuning lower limb prosthetic.
This new generation of prostheses will be plug and play in nature, and the limb will be able to self-tune itself to stairs, level surfaces, or slopes to provide optimum performance. At the time of the walking cycle, the intelligent prosthetic limb will be able to switch between delivering energy to the walking motion to garnering energy during the swing phase. It will also help in lowering the burden on the batteries used in the artificial limb.
4. Robots for clinics and schools
One of the key applications of robotic rehabilitation and assistive technologies market involves supporting children with motor disabilities. Children with who have difficulty moving often have lower fitness levels, leading to reduced participation in sports and social events.
Motor difficulties can also harm their educational progress and makes them increasingly susceptible to several other disorders including obesity. The robotic rehabilitation and assistive technologies market needs developers and healthcare experts who can create systems to help these children be more independent and socially active. An example is Trexo Robotics’ system for children with cerebral palsy.
Note: Many of the products mentioned above are still in development and testing; none of these citations is an endorsement by the study’s authors.