Breaking the 3 Barriers to Stroke Therapy

May 23, 2019

Stroke survivors require hundreds to thousands of hours of therapy for the brain to restructure the synaptic connections needed to regain movement in an impaired arm or leg. That’s a lot of therapy. Sadly, many stroke survivors aren’t getting enough of it.

That’s one of the reasons we will be offering a home version of our robotic therapy system, to help stroke survivors overcome the three main barriers to the therapy need: cost, limited access, and the challenge to stay motivated over the long haul. Each of these barriers reduces the overall rehabilitation individuals get, which in turn may limit recovery.

1. Breaking the cost barrier
Beginning this summer, we will be marketing home units of our Hand Mentor Pro and Foot Mentor Pro at a cost of $80 a week. Compare that to the typical $50 co-pay per visit to a therapist for stroke survivors who have insurance, or the typical $150 or more per session without insurance.

Previous versions of our device have been on the market for the past decade in 40 states, in a dozen hospitals and Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics, so they are already proven. They have helped thousands of people. But those devices were sold at a higher price point as part of the hospital’s or clinic’s onsite equipment, so stroke survivors have had to “go see them” for their therapy rather than having something they can use at home.

We want to change that model. We’ve tailored our soon-to-be-released home version so that it is more portable than the hospital version, and we have reduced its cost to help make it available to more people who need it. We’ve found that the current financial cost of therapy is too burdensome for many survivors to continue getting the therapy science stresses is necessary for neuroplasticity and neuro-recovery. Everything else is the same, including the artificial intelligence (AI) that powers our devices. This new version breaks the cost barrier if you will.

2. Breaking the accessibility barrier
Under the conventional model of rehabilitation, stroke survivors needed to be brought to therapy. Many found the burden of transport too difficult to both the survivor and caregiver to maintain the recommended dosage of rehabilitation necessary to create brain changes and meaningful recovery. This may have meant limiting or stopping therapy entirely. With a device like ours, stroke survivors can do their therapy at home whenever they have time for it—before they go to work, or after work, or during the night if they can’t sleep. We have clearly seen that stroke survivors get more therapy per day when their devices are this handy.

In addition to increased frequency of therapy, there is another benefit to having the device at home. When individuals go to a clinic for therapy, they typically do an all-out sprint. They work hard for 40 minutes, get exhausted and go home, often too tired to continue at home.  In contrast, we see our home users divide their therapy between several short sessions during the day. As a result, they generally log more hours overall. Like trying to learn a new language, cramming isn’t as effective as studying in short bursts over time. The same principle is at work here. Having the device at home provides a better balanced, ultimately more effective regimen.

3. Breaking the motivation barrier
We’ve written about our theratainment approach in a previous blog, how it’s designed to make therapy fun. Behind the interactive games that keep patients engaged, there is some serious intensive therapy going on. There’s also motivational psychology built into our games. In an unbiased way, the system tells you how many steps you’ve taken and how many more you need to reach your goal. The reminder in itself is motivating. Our technology gives you gradual reminders of your progress step-by-step along the way. Instead of, “You’re still a long way from brushing your teeth,” it’s, “I gained a fraction of a degree in the range of motion in my arm this week.” In traditional therapy, you take a lot of things on faith and you might stop and regress. Our data makes progress tangible.

In addition, the AI component makes therapy continually more challenging. The system can tell, for example, when you have achieved 10 degrees of motion. The games then scale to make the challenge a little tougher—12 degrees. The key is to give you enough wins to keep you excited, enough challenges for you to progress. Therapy that isn’t appropriate or not continuously tailored can create a boring experience by being too easy or difficult… that’s the balance that AI helps us strike with our system, and it’s one of the reasons it works so well.

As effective as in-person therapy
Remember, our system is the only FDA- listed robotic stroke therapy device proven in clinical trials to be just as effective as working in a one-on-one session with a clinical therapist. We don’t ever intend to replace the work a therapist can do. Our system provides a way to augment direct interaction with a skilled clinician and encourage highly repetitive neuro-rehab protocols at home, keeping patients active between visits or after typical outpatient reimbursement ends.

By breaking down the barriers to more frequent, more accessible and more motivational treatment, we can be a valuable partner in a stroke survivor’s overall program of care with his or her therapist. That’s why, along with our new business model, we’re adopting a new tagline, too: Bringing Robotic Stroke Therapy Home.