Wearable tech like smart watches and Fitbits have become very common. Everyone from dogs to athletes, children to seniors are wearing them. Similarly, exoskeleton type suits can be found on factory workers throughout the world helping them to do repetitive jobs with a lower risk of developing repetitive injury.
It’s estimated that about 1 in every 50 Canadians has some sort of paralysis. The paralysis can be the result of a congenital defect, from car accidents, sports injuries, neurological disorders, workplace injuries, violent assault or battlefield injury.
According to the Rick Hansen Foundation and Statistics Canada there are:
Approximately 86,000 Canadians are living with a spinal cord injury, with 4,300 new cases each year.
Over 60 per cent of people living with a spinal cord injury are unemployed.
If you have a spinal cord injury you will be re-hospitalized 2.6 times more often than the average Canadian.
Those with spinal cord injury need three times more contact with a physicians and 30 times more hours of home care service.
People with a spinal cord injury have a life expectancy of 15 to 30 fewer years than the average Canadian.
The economic cost of traumatic spinal cord injury is estimated at $3.6 billion a year in Canada.
Now, we are slowly beginning to see wearable tech on individuals with paralysis. This tech is allowing them to walk or use their arms for the first time since their injury was sustained. Companies like ReWalk and Exo-Suit and Ekso have made major developments in the field of spinal cord injuries, neurological disorders and strokes. The wearable tech is now being used in rehab, and as the benefits of the devices becomes more evident they are becoming more widely available.
These tech devices are really robots that can help even sedentary patients improve their lives and regain some mobility. One great example of how far this tech has come is the ReWalk Personal System is a custom designed support system that can be sued all day at home and in the community. It can be controlled through a wristwatch and reacts to sensors on the patient’s torso. It can sense movement and moves the feet according to the need. It takes a limited number of training sessions to learn to use the tech – about 20 hours in total according to ReWalk and according to the users it makes a tremendous difference in the quality of life allowing them to go out in public shopping and to move independently of others.
Other types of devices are used to retrain stroke patients’ brains and muscles in order to allow them to walk again. In the case of stroke patients the tech devices are not permanent, but rather they are meant to allow patients to learn over an extended period of time to be independent again.
The issue with any of these devices is the enormous cost involved in the devices, the customization and the training. Insurance companies are not eager to take on the cost burden and individuals often cannot afford the high price of the devices.