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This startup helps hospitals treat stroke patients quickly

Hopebotics’ device transfers stroke patients’ therapy at home whilst hospitals monitor the progress remotely.

Rehabilitation for elderly stroke patients typically requires five to seven days in the hospital, an experience made even more overwhelming given the current staff shortage in Hong Kong hospitals. According to data from Health Care Manpower Projection, Hong Kong faced a significant shortage of 3,405 nurses in 2020, which could rise to 5,060 within 20 years.

Recognising this challenge, Hong Kong-based startup Hopebotics has developed a device to facilitate patients' recovery without frequent hospital visits. The device, called HandTasker, uses a flexible actuator and 3-D printing technology to fit the soft-hand robot with natural hand movement.

HandTasker assists the elderly in doing easy and lightweight tasks essential for stroke patient rehabilitation, such as picking up a phone, writing, or grabbing food.

The device is also customisable and can accommodate patients with different hand sizes and stiffness levels.

“The elderly still can be independent, if they can recover better from therapy and they can still live a normal life,” Raymond Tong, co-founder of Hopebotics, told Healthcare Asia.

By using the HandTasker, Tong said patients’ visits will go from weekly to monthly.

To promote the use of the HandTasker, Hopebotics has collaborated with hospitals in the rehabilitation of stroke patients.

At present, Hopebotics is actively working with non-government organisation, Hong Kong Stroke Association, and the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan, Hong Kong. 

Hope and robotics

Hopebotics, as the name suggests, is the combination of “hope” and “robotics” since the company’s technology enables stroke patients to live a healthy life despite their being older.

Tong, who is a biomedical engineer, and his co-founders Zheng Li and David Shi started Hopebotics Co. Ltd. to provide the latest soft wearable robotics for stroke rehabilitation.

Before they could create the lighter robot hand for stroke patients back in 2012, Tong had already made a robotic system for rehabilitation, known as the Hand of Hope. But this device was too heavy for his target market — elderly patients. 

What the trio developed years later was the use of lighter materials for the robotic hand device. The latest version of the HandTasker is only about 150 grams.

Healthy ageing

The World Economic Forum’s forecast is that by 2050, over 40% of the population of Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan will be 65 years old and above. The countries also represent the three markets with the biggest older population in the world.

Tong, as a supporter of elderly living globally, said the goal for the next generation is to keep people healthy with the use of technology.

“Everyone’s enjoyed their life and everyone can enjoy good health, even if they are at the age of 80 or 90,” said Tong.

Next tech: ExoMuscle

Moving forward, Tong said they developed another robotics tech in addressing rehabilitation for those who have shoulder problems or walking problems.

This new type of tech is called ExoMuscle, which is a bionic artificial muscle that is similar to the structure of a skeletal muscle, but surpassing it in terms of stress, strain, power density, and efficiency.

The tech can be used to lift a 20-kilogram water bucket.

It is also adjustable, allowing it to achieve variable actuation stress of up to 0.9 MPa. This makes it suitable for use in various joints and muscles of the upper limbs.

Tong said the ExoMuscle can also be customised to meet the needs of different stroke patients during rehabilitation.

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