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Remote physical therapy gains interest in wake of coronavirus lockdowns

Posted at 12:00 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 13:00:04-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Nearly four years ago, life changed dramatically for Polly Hutchinson after a massive stroke.

“When you’ve been physically impacted by a stroke, your movement in the community has already been affected,” she said.

Her entire left side was left paralyzed. She became one of the more than 795,000 people in the U.S. who have a stroke each year. Yet, with the coronavirus pandemic still unfolding, in-person physical rehabilitation isn’t an option right now.

An unusual glove, though, is helping her address that.

“I have access in my home to be able to continue to do my rehab,” Hutchinson said.

It’s called the “Smart Glove” – just one of several therapy devices developed by the company, Neofect. The idea is to make physical rehabilitation easier to stick with, by creating interactive devices you can use at home.

“You’re playing baseball, you’re cooking,” said Neofect CEO Scott Kim. “You’re even pouring wine.”

Kim was born with spina bifida, a condition that affects the spine. He understands how tough physical therapy can be.

“I know how tedious and boring this journey is and then it’s so easy to just give up,” he said.

Kim said the outbreak of COVID-19 created a space and need for their devices that he couldn’t have predicted.

“We were kind of preparing for telehealth and then touchless rehab for a different reason -- nobody saw this coming,” he said.

The devices capture movements and transmit that data to physical therapists, who can monitor and track the progress of their patients remotely.

“They can actually know whether their patients are doing their homework,” Kim said.

That keeps patients, like Polly Hutchinson, on a path to getting better.

“Instead of being at therapy for one or two hours a week, I had it in my home and could do it one or two hours a day,” she said. “So, it makes a huge difference.”

All the while, helping her hold onto her hard-fought progress – now, without the risk of leaving home.