Fighting COVID-19: Interview with Dr. Eric Dusseux, CEO of BIONIK Laboratories

While millions of people worldwide stay at home to minimize the transmission of COVID-19, healthcare workers and hospital staff do the exact opposite! They go to clinics, hospitals, points of entries (POEs), quarantine centers, and laboratories, putting themselves at high risk of infection.

How can we protect these ‘healthcare heroes’? Is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and standard precautionary measures like temperature checks and frequent sterilization good enough to protect them 100 percent, when they need to be in close contact with COVID-19 patients? Can they reduce the need to be in close contact in the first place?

Notably, robots can significantly reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission to frontline healthcare workers by making it possible to triage, evaluate, monitor, and treat patients from a safe distance.

Robots can also automate labor-intensive, time-consuming, and repetitive manual operations such as lab testing, sample analysis, sterilization/sanitization, and pharmacy services to reduce the burden on frontline healthcare workers and increase efficiency and enhance care.

We at RoboticsBiz had a chance to interview Dr. Eric Dusseux, CEO of BIONIK Laboratories, an innovative medical device, and robotics company, about the role of robots in the COVID-19 pandemic. Bionik focuses on providing rehabilitation and assistive technology solutions to individuals with neurological and mobility challenges.

Read the complete interview below:

Robots are once again proving to be indispensable in the ongoing war against COVID-19. Can you give us quantifiable examples of how frontline healthcare workers can benefit from robots during the current health crisis and improve care and efficiency?

Dr. Eric Dusseux, CEO of BIONIK Laboratories

At times during the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare facilities had to reorganize their operations and limit the number of patients they treated. The resulting revenue losses experienced by those healthcare facilities led to many layoffs or furloughs, creating a shortage of clinicians available to treat patients. Because of this shortage, it has become vital for each clinician to be as efficient as possible.

Robots can improve their productivity, and this is evident in physical therapy and rehabilitation. “Traditional” physical therapy administered by humans yields between 32 and 80 movements per one-hour session. Since robots can detect movements that humans cannot and provide assistance as needed, robotic physical therapy can result in 600 to 1,000 movements per session, a 3,000% increase.

Health providers find that patients who experience severe cases of COVID-19 need physical and cognitive rehabilitation care to aid in their recovery from the virus’ damaging effects on the body and mind. What are the common movement impairments and negative side effects of COVID-19?

Unfortunately, like strokes and other neurological conditions, COVID-19 can require patients to need physical and cognitive rehabilitation, as some patients have experienced serious brain impairments. As a result of COVID-19, some of these patients have experienced confusion, seizures, and even stroke. These conditions can damage the brain and may result in the loss of basic motor functions, which often require extensive physical therapy.

How does BIONIK participate in the mission to rehabilitate patients infected with or recovering from COVID-19?

It is critical that patients who have lost motor function after suffering neurological conditions begin rehabilitation quickly. Recognizing the threat to timely rehabilitation, BIONIK Laboratories donated an InMotion® robotic system to Einstein Healthcare Network’s MossRehab.

It is being utilized within the facility’s CORE+ Unit, a rehabilitation space for patients suffering from neurological conditions who have been infected with or are recovering from COVID-19, to enable them to get the therapy they need in a unit where patients have their own rooms, dedicated staff, stringent PPE requirements, and transportation protocols to reduce risk of infection. Admission requirements include being seven days from a COVID-19 diagnosis and 72 hours with no fever. The CORE+ Unit is one of the first of its kind in the United States.

Hospital automation seems to be a new buzzword these days. Can you tell us where hospitals and health settings can most easily automate?

One of the most logical opportunities for hospitals and health settings to automate is in data analytics. Instead of having human clinicians sit near patients and record results on clipboards, facilities can use cloud-integrated medical devices to automatically record and upload patient progress in real-time.

This automatic data is available more quickly to base decisions on and is less biased than human-generated data. At the micro (patient) level, this data results in more informed decisions on treatment. At the macro (executive) level, it can be used to identify inefficiencies and areas of improvement, including the learning curve for the adoption of this new technology.

What are the barriers to the use of robotics and automation, and how to bypass them?

While many health networks have recognized the benefits of robotic devices and have implemented them, many more still need to integrate their robotic devices with the cloud to maximize the returns on their initial investments. It is not always easy to secure executive-level commitment to investing in new technologies, as many hesitate to spend a dollar today, even if it means saving for tomorrow. When lobbying for cloud-integrated robotics, it is important to convey the efficiencies they will create inpatient treatment and the applications of the data they will generate.

Could you give us an overview of BIONIK’s three products?

InMotionARM™ enables clinicians to efficiently deliver intensive motor therapy to help patients regain motor function (coordination, range of motion, strength, and control) following a neurological condition or injury. The InMotionARM quietly monitors the patient’s movements during therapy while it gently assists where needed to help them complete various motor therapy activities, supported by data analysis and artificial intelligence.

InMotionARM/HAND™ was developed according to the same principles of motor learning and neuro-plasticity that were incorporated into the original InMotion ARM robotic system and utilizes data analysis and artificial intelligence to provide individualized therapy and reports that empower patients. It enables rehabilitation facilities to enhance their treatment programs for patients recovering from a stroke or other neurological injury who are ready to retrain, reach, and grasp.

InMotion Connect is a cloud-based data analytics solution that securely streams and stores anonymized data from all connected InMotion® robotics devices to BIONIK’s cloud server. It enables secured data collection from InMotion Robots that results in valuable analytics as well as customizable and adaptive reporting on a user-friendly dashboard, available to therapists, their management team, and the C-Suite of the hospital and outpatient care networks.

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