Posts Tagged ‘assistive technologies’

Cyborgs and workers comp

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016



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!

Rehabilitative robot roundup: Coming to a hospital near you?

Monday, December 19th, 2011

From time to time, we like to take a look at the wizardry that is under development in rehabilitative and assistive technologies. What used to be on the order of Flash Gordon type fantasy is now reality within reach. In out first clip, Toyota Unveils Quartet of Healthcare Robots. MedGadget says these four robots are expected to be production ready in 2013. Three are walking assist and balance training robots that would help in patient rehab. The fourth is a patient transfer assist – something we see as very valuable in helping to prevent health care worker injuries.

And while on the topic of lifting aids, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include RIBA, a versatile if somewhat surreal patient care robot.

Finally, we have a Robotic Man’s Best Friend to Guide the Blind. Yes, it may cost a bit more, but think of the savings in dog food. All joking aside, it’s exciting to see these technological advances moving closer to the practical reality of helping people to overcome injuries and disabilities.

The next generation in prosthetic arms

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

We like to keep our eye on advances in rehabilitative and assistive tehnologies, so we were delighted to find one of our favorite inventors and entrepreneurs Dean Kamen showcasing another of his awe-inspiring inventions in a TED talk. Kamen is perhaps most known for the invention of the Segway. We were particularly smitten by his iBOT, a revolutionary stair-climbing wheelchair that allowed the user to raise up on two wheels to be eye level to a standing person. Unfortunately, these went off the market due to cost but you can see the iBOT in action here.
Kamen’s recent invention is the DEKA Arm (or the “Luke Arm”), a highly advanced prosthetic arm which he created for veterans who lost limbs in the war. He tells the fascinating story of the development and shows some of the capabilities in the following TED video. Inspiring and exciting! (You can also view his recent appearance on the Colbert Report and you can read about it at Dean Kamen’s “Luke Arm” Prosthesis Readies for Clinical Trials.)

Emerging technologies: Freedom legs, bionic fingers, gastric condoms

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

It’s been some time since we’ve made a foray into one of our favorite topics: emerging health technology, particularly in the area of rehabilitative and assistive technologies. We’ve compiled a few stories that we found fascinating and promising. If you enjoy them and and would like to read more, we point you to the following excellent sources: Always: Medgadget and MassDevice. Sometimes: Wired and Gizmodo.
Throw out those crutches
Crutches are an awkward and uncomfortable so we are delighted to learn about the Freedom-Leg, an “off-loading prosthetic,” which allows users greater mobility. The device allows a user to avoid putting any weight on the injured foot, ankle or knee, but keeps the strength in the upper muscles of the injured leg.

Bionic fingers
If you are advancing in years as I am, you will remember TV’s popular Six-Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Yesterday’s fantasy is today’s reality, giving powerful new potential to amputees. Prodigits is a prostehetic device for partial-hand amputees who are missing one or more fingers. Bionic or self-contained fingers that are individually powered allow users to bend, touch, grasp, and point.

Gastric “condom” for obesity, diabetes treatment
A recurring topic here on the blog is the debilitating impact of comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes on the recovery process. Obesity is frequently also a contributing factor to a work-related injury. Recently, we’ve seen some controversial court decisions mandating that employers foot the bill for gastric by-pass surgery for workers who are recovering from work-related injuries.
A new temporary device, the EndoBarrier Gastric Bypass, holds promise for helping with weight loss. The device is implanted endoscopically via the mouth, creating a chamber in the stomach which limits the amount of food a patient can digest. A prior story showed the device had positive results in clinical trials.

Health Wonk Review, help for paraplegics, crane safety, PBM shakeups and more

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Health Wonk Review – David Williams has a snappy new edition of Health Wonk Review posted over at Health Business Blog. Because HWR took a little summer hiatus last week, this issue is packed – and it’s all organized in a great format that allows for quick and easy scanning. David’s witty summaries are fun – check it out, it’s a good edition.
Cool development in assistive technology for paraplegics – Radi Kioff is a 40-year-old Israeli who spent the last 20 years in a wheelchair after being shot in the back while serving in the Israel Defense Forces. The video in this post shows him walking and climbing stairs with the help of a light wearable brace called ReWalk, a system designed to help paraplegics regain mobility. The system is undergoing clinical trials in Israel and scheduled to begin US trials in November. It’s great to see such a promising development for those who have suffered spinal chord injuries. (Thanks to Medgadget for the pointer.)
Crane fatalitiesrawblogXport points us to the story of an eyewitness account from one of the workers who escaped in last week’s LyondellBasell’s crane collapse that killed 4 workers and injured 7. The article’s sidebar recounts the number of crane accidents so far this year. Celeste Monforton posts more on this and other crane fatalities at The Pump Handle.
PBM shakeup – Joe Paduda has the skinny on PMSI’s recent sale to investment firm HIG. Find more detail in his post PMSI sale – the numbers.
Disgruntled claimant on trial for murder – When you’ve worked in insurance for awhile, you know that a lot of anger and tension can surface around money matters, even more so when things reach a litigation stage. And many a claims manager can cite a litany of stories about angry calls or threats from disgruntled claimants who feel they’d had a raw deal. A story from California today reports on the trial of a claimant who shot and killed his own attorney two years ago. Angus McIntyre was very angry at his workers compensation settlement. He had reportedly threatened and harassed his claims adjuster in e-mails and voice mails on numerous occasions and apparently also held his attorney responsible. One evening he walked into that attorneys office and shot him in the head. Terrible story, and a sad reminder that violent threats must never be taken lightly.
Provider jailed for fraud – It’s 12 months jail time for a New York social worker who double-billed insurance companies to the tune of $102,000 for health care services. A health care provider may bill two insurance companies for the same treatment, but is obligate to disclose the double billing and cannot keep amount beyond 100 percent of the cost of the service. The conviction is not surprising, but I can’t recall too many insurance fraud cases that result in jail time. It’s also a reminder that fraud comes in many flavors – it is not synonymous with “employee.”
Fall protection – Brooks Schuelke posts an overview of fall protection systems at Falls are one of the most common source of injury and death in construction work. (Related: our prior post on human fall traps)