Cyborgs and workers comp

October 19th, 2016 by Julie Ferguson



We’re looking forward to the workers’ comp age of the cyborgs and it looks as though we are getting closer.

Just in case you are sketchy on just what a cyborg is, here’s a refresher from Wikipedia:

“A cyborg (short for “cybernetic organism”) is a being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts. The term was coined in 1960 by Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline.

The term cyborg is not the same thing as bionic, biorobot or android; it applies to an organism that has restored function or enhanced abilities due to the integration of some artificial component or technology that relies on some sort of feedback.”

We are happy to see Roberto Ceniceros championing some exciting mobility technologies in his recent column at Risk & Insurance: The Case for Exoskeletons. He talks about how they are helping some patients with spinal cord injuries to stand up and walk.

“Exoskeletons are assistive devices often described as “wearable robots” or “Segways with legs.” Since 2014, the Food and Drug Administration has approved two models for personal use, including one earlier this year.

Some workers’ comp insurers have already approved a few claims for the motorized devices and the cost of training. Other underwriters have declined to fund them.

The battery-powered devices cost at least $80,000 plus additional training. Safety questions remain and some doctors who agree on the medical benefits they provide are still wary of certifying them as “medically necessary.”

An accompanying article – The New Normal by Susannah Levine – talks more about how advanced care techniques and technologies are helping workers with brain and spinal cord injuries get back to living full lives. She interviews several people who work with catastrophically injured workers talk about what they are seeing in the field.

Also related, NPR Shots features a story on iBOTS or standing wheelchairs: A Reboot For Wheelchair That Can Stand Up And Climb Stairs. These promising chairs were invented by Dean Kamen and although beloved for the few who had them, they went out of production in 2009. But there is hope for a comeback:

“Toyota announced this year that it’s bankrolling a reboot of the iBOT, which the machine’s inventor, Dean Kamen, says will allow him to make some improvements.

“With advances in computers, the advances in solid-state gyros and electronics … we can take a hundred pounds out of it. We can take a lot of cost out of it. We can improve it,” he told NPR.

Kamen is widely known as the inventor of the Segway, which was actually a byproduct from development of the iBOT. The first iteration of the wheelchair had a $25,000 price tag — too high even for the department of Veterans Affairs in most cases. Most veterans who had iBOTs got them from veterans charities, and all but a few are now sitting in the garage, with nowhere to service them.”

The story also interviews Gary Linfoot, a former Army helicopter pilot, who talks about how the iBOT changed his life.

We’ve been posting about mobility devices and assistive technologies over the years – see Make way for the cyborgs: robotic mobility devices. We’re excitied to see the renewed interest in iBOTs and the progress of other devices that help the disabled and the injured lead more functional lives. Bring on the cyborgs!

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