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Smart Rehabilitation Equipment Proves Ideal Therapy for Mainland

Smart assistive devices, integrating both software and hardware components, are transforming the rehabilitative regimes of many mainland patients, according to exhibitors at this year's Rehacare and Orthopedic China (Guangzhou) event.

Photo: New for 2017: Integrated hardware and software rehabilitation equipment.
New for 2017: Integrated hardware and software rehabilitation equipment.
Photo: New for 2017: Integrated hardware and software rehabilitation equipment.
New for 2017: Integrated hardware and software rehabilitation equipment.

The recent Rehacare and Orthopedic China (Guangzhou) event showcased a variety of rehabilitation equipment, ranging from large medical devices to small household items. Ease of use was the mantra for many of the assistive devices on offer, while the integration of hardware and software was very much the trend among many of the products making their debut at the event.

The event took place barely six months after the State Council issued new guidelines relating to the sector – Several Opinions on Accelerating the Development of the Rehabilitation and Assistive Equipment Industry. A key element of this proposal was official support for the wider application of artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, virtual reality and other cutting-edge technologies within the rehabilitative sector. This call was further endorsed by China Investment Consulting, a Shanghai-based research group, which forecast that China's rehabilitation sector will be worth more than RMB70 billion (US$10.2 billion) by 2020, indicating a likely compound annual growth rate of about 20%.

Unsurprisingly then, many of the exhibitors at this year's event were hugely optimistic about the future of the sector, believing that supply still falls well short of demand, with that gap only likely to widen. The fact that intelligent rehabilitation equipment has now been officially endorsed by many hospitals and rehabilitation institutions, as well as by consumers themselves, only added to their confidence.

One company in particularly bullish form was Shenzhen Children Laugh Recreation Equipment, a specialist in the autism and cerebral palsy sectors. According to Bai Junda, the company's Sales Manager, its equipment can help children suffering from such conditions with their vestibular balance, while also assisting in the development of their visual and auditory senses. At present, the company primarily sells to hospitals and disabled support groups across the mainland.

Photo: Musical therapy from Children Laugh.
Musical therapy from Children Laugh.
Photo: Musical therapy from Children Laugh.
Musical therapy from Children Laugh.
Photo: Ease of access: A walk-in bath.
Ease of access: A walk-in bath.
Photo: Ease of access: A walk-in bath.
Ease of access: A walk-in bath.

The company was also showcasing a smart ultrasonic musical system. Billed as the Virtual Musical Instrument, it consists of four ultrasonic motion acquisition units, one central sound processor, eight pedals and a number of additional components. Coming with a touch-screen panel, the system features 16 themed sound modules, including transport, birds and insects, and musical instruments.

According to Bai, the music module is by far the most popular feature of the system and can simulate the sound of a variety of musical instruments, including the organ, the double-bass and the guitar. Sensors mounted on either side of the unit can also detect objects, sounding an alarm when they come into close proximity. When a child stands in front of the instrument, for instance, it will detect their presence and make an appropriate sound.

Photo: Lower-limb stimulation by XFT Electronics.
Lower-limb stimulation by XFT Electronics.
Photo: Lower-limb stimulation by XFT Electronics.
Lower-limb stimulation by XFT Electronics.

Among the other key trends to emerge at the expo was a notable expansion in the number of compact rehabilitation devices being made available for home use, with demand also surging for intelligent devices. Ticking both of these boxes was Shenzhen XFT Electronics, which was showcasing its Electrical Foot Stimulator at the show.

The system comprises one primary bracing unit, two electrodes, one remote control and a charging device. It has been designed to counter the loss of lower limb mobility caused by strokes, spinal-cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, hemiplegia or multiple sclerosis.

Once the bracing unit has been strapped beneath the knee, the patient can use a smart one-button system that controls the time and duration of the electrical stimulation being applied. By stimulating the peroneal nerve and the tibialis anterior, the unit can control the dorsiflexion and outward movement of both the ankle and foot, allowing the patient to lift the leg and walk.

Hardware-Software Integration

Photo: Huasin’s horizontal leg press.
Huasin's horizontal leg press.
Photo: Huasin’s horizontal leg press.
Huasin's horizontal leg press.

Looking to take a lead in the provision of hardware-software integrated rehabilitation devices was Guangzhou-based Huasin Science Co, which this year promoted its new horizontal leg press. According Li Pixun, the company's Rehabilitation Products Manager, the equipment can help improve lower-limb movements, allowing the elderly and infirm to stand up and sit down more easily.

Hardware-software integration is, apparently, one of the key elements of the system. To this end, the system features a touch-screen display and a built-in sensor that can record and assess the user's exercise progress, while providing visual and audible guidance. During a typical speed session, lasting some eight seconds or so, for example, the unit will issue audible instructions to guide the user through maximising the benefit of each exercise. The display will also show an assessment after the user has finished each session. After viewing the result, a therapist can then adjust the future treatment programme in line with the patient's needs.

In addition to exercise equipment, the company also distributes an imported Japanese slide-in bathtub. Again embracing the hardware-software integration model, each unit features a single-button touch-screen monitor and a bathing timer display. The bathtub is said to be particularly suitable for patients suffering from paralysis-related problems. The computer-controlled water temperature is kept constant at between 38°C and 45°C, while the mist-like droplets dispensed from the shower head are said to not even irritate the most sensitive of skins.

Photo: Safer bathing equipment.
Safer bathing equipment.
Photo: Safer bathing equipment.
Safer bathing equipment.

Safe and Easy to Use

Safety and ease-of-use were the prime design concerns for the equipment on show from Shenzhen's Honeycomb Technologies. This year, the company offered a range of facilitated speech communication training devices, computer-aided assistive devices and several interactive switches.

According to Shi Zhengnan, the company's Senior Occupational Therapist, Honeycomb's products are primarily targeted at those with speech, writing, orientation, sight, hearing, learning and walking difficulties. Among the options on offer was the Big Mark (Damake), a facilitated speech communications training device featuring an outsized keyboard and an audible typing response. A similar system, the Quaker 7 (Kuike 7), comes with a graphic card interface, which can prompt users trying to overcome learning or speech impediments.

Photo: Speech therapy courtesy of Honeycomb.
Speech therapy courtesy of Honeycomb.
Photo: Speech therapy courtesy of Honeycomb.
Speech therapy courtesy of Honeycomb.
Photo: On target for therapeutic benefit.
On target for therapeutic benefit.
Photo: On target for therapeutic benefit.
On target for therapeutic benefit.

According to Bai, Children Laugh's most popular product is an interactive training system designed to boost a patient's sight, hearing, touch and sense of smell. The system operates a water column while playing piano music, with patients – including autistic children – able to interact with the unit via a series of buttons.

Rehabilitation Round-up

Hong Kong's Regal Prosthesis promoted a range of silicone cosmetic prostheses. Produced by using 3D technology to scan the actual skin of the patient, the resultant prosthetics match the original colouring and texture. Patients can even apply nail polish to the fingers of their replacement hands.

Vermeiren (Suzhou) Medical Equipment, meanwhile, was in Guangzhou to promote its Forest 3 SU electric wheelchair. As well as allowing users to move around, the chair also helps them stand up, sit and lie down, while its adjustable contact point can be used to maximise comfort and minimise stress.

Photo: Horizontal rehabilitation in use.
Horizontal rehabilitation in use.
Photo: Horizontal rehabilitation in use.
Horizontal rehabilitation in use.

Rehacare and Orthopedic China (Guangzhou) 2017 took place at the Poly World Trade Center Expo from 31 March to 2 April. The event was co-organised by the China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges and the China Assistive Devices and Technology Centre for People with Disabilities. The show had 600 stands and featured more than 100 individual exhibitors.

Xing Bin, Special Correspondent, Guangzhou

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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