With the mainland suffering from a serious shortage of properly qualified rehabilitative medical staff, technology is helping to fill the treatment gap.
10 May 2018
As the ninth HKTDC Hong Kong International Medical Devices and Supplies Fair concluded in Hong Kong yesterday with state-of-the-art medical equipment, technologies and services, the medical technology scene across the border has also made great strides.
An interesting range of bespoke prosthetics and smart therapeutic equipment is now available, as demand for smart and bespoke rehabilitation devices soars across China.
More than 1,000 different products were on offer at this year's Rehacare and Orthopedic China expo, the Guangzhou-hosted show that is now one of the leading events for the mainland's rehabilitative care, prosthetic, orthotic and assistive technology sector. Among the many innovations were the latest developments in the world of rehabilitation engineering devices, physiotherapy instruments, assistive devices, mobility products, household medical devices, personal-care items and hygiene-related products.
Particularly high profile this year were custom-fit precision devices, while a wider range of intelligent rehabilitation systems was also on offer, including products tailored to the specific requirements of children with special needs. In terms of the topics that dominated the event, the consensus among many exhibitors was that the mainland still has a serious shortage of specialist rehabilitation doctors.
Custom-fit Precision Products
This year, there was no shortage of manufacturers looking to provide bespoke rehabilitation equipment to individual patients. Among the companies tailoring their products to meet individual needs was Sensor Medica Technology, the Guangzhou-based subsidiary of an Italian company specialising in the field of human biomechanical balance.
This year, the company was focusing on its 3D orthotics manufacturing system, which it believes can play a major role in the rehabilitation of those with lower-limb problems. To this end, its treatment unit comprises a gait analyser, a baropodometric treadmill, a scanner and a set of numerically controlled machine tools.
Explaining the application of the system, Dennis Du, the company's General Manager, said: "Every individual has a different way of walking, so our first step is to assess the patient's gait, which allows us to precisely diagnose any problems with their lower-limb mobility and use. The baropodometric treadmill is then used to analyse the pressure applied by the foot, the distribution of that pressure, the resultant gravity shift and the overall gait cycle.
"A foot scanner is then used to compile the required data, which is then uploaded to our design software, triggering the production of custom-fit insoles via the use of a series of numerically-controlled machine tools. The resulting insoles then provide the level of arch support and cushioning required to reduce the pressure on the foot and the first metatarsal bone."
This system is said to be suitable for use in rehabilitation, medical and prosthetic rehabilitation institutions. According to Du, athletes may also make use of the system in order to reduce their likelihood of sustaining injury.
Another company offering customised rehabilitation services was Guangzhou Skyluck Rehabilitation and Healthcare Medical Devices. According to Chen Youhuang, the Manager of the company's exhibition stand, rehabilitation products are only truly effective if they meet a users' specific needs, with this requirement ensuring that the market for bespoke devices will continue to grow.
The company is making particular inroads into the paediatric conductive education sector, with its child's standing frame particularly in demand. While the length of the frame from the footboard to the knees and the hip joints is adjustable in line with height of the individual child, the device can also be made to order. The frame forms part of a range that includes an adjustable chair for correcting sitting posture, adjustable sit-stand chairs, supine standing frames and prone standing frames.
Smart Products with High Functionality
Among the many smart rehabilitation devices to find favour with buyers at the event were the intelligent below-the-knee prosthetics available from Beijing Goodoing Speed Smart Technology. Outlining the functionality of the system, Huang Mingjun, the company's South China Regional Director, said: "The product's pressure sensors, angle sensors and posture sensors can instantly detect the prosthetic motion and the external environment, anticipating the intention of the user, regardless of whether they want to sit, stand, walk or stretch. The system can also adapt to a variety of different terrains.
"Battery-powered and coming with an active torque capability, the product can also assist the wearer when it comes to negotiating steps or stairs. Once charged, the unit is good for five days' usage. It is also comfortable to wear and the ankle angle can be adjusted while walking to prevent the tip of the toes from touching the ground at any point. There is also an accompanying phone app that allows the wearer to optimise the prosthetic for walking, cycling, driving or hiking usage."
Harnessing technology for quite a different purpose, Shanghai Invision Digital Technology had on offer a virtual reality (VR) treatment system tailored to the needs of autistic children. Detailing the application of the system, Senior Marketing Manager John Liu said: "Once the autistic child has their VR headset in place, their teacher selects the required training programme via the touchscreen. The child is then immersed in a training environment and negotiates their way through using a joystick to respond to various audio and visual cues.
"This system offers scenarios appropriate for the cognitive, interactive and social interaction training stages, all of which help an autistic child to develop. As a follow-up, we are now looking to introduce VR courses geared more to whole-family therapy for households with an autistic child."
Special Needs Rehabilitative Devices
Given the shortfall in the number of specialist mainland doctors available to oversee the rehabilitative needs of children with autism or other developmental disorders, there has been growing demand for smart systems that can support such patients. One company looking to take a lead here was Shenzhen Erbaole Game Facility, which was keen to promote the benefits of its multi-sensory activity room at the event.
This facility features a range of interactive touch buttons, water columns and lighting installations. Simply by touching the buttons, a child can trigger changes in the water columns, including activating a bubble effect or initiating a colour change. By stimulating the senses, these changes bolster the overall rehabilitative training programme.
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