Putting an end to back pain – thanks to exoskeletons
Putting an end to back pain – thanks to exoskeletons
Whether professional nursing staff or family caregivers – back pain is a widespread phenomenon among people who care for others. Lack of knowledge or lack of time often prevent back-friendly work. With the BionicBack, the companies Help Tech GmbH and hTRIUS GmbH want to provide an assistive device that relieves the back and prevents back pain. REHACARE.com spoke with Carolin Mühle, Business Development Manager at Help Tech, about the exoskeleton and the challenges in today's care.
At various trade fairs, including REHACARE, the Help Tech team presented the BionicBack, an exoskeleton designed to promote back-friendly working.
Ms. Mühle, how did the development of the BionicBack proceed? Help Tech is actually known for other products...
Carolin Mühle: The company hTRIUS has developed the BionicBack. As a sales partner and affiliated company, we were able to accompany the development from the ground up. We have taken over the sales part of the care for them because this is a very complex field and we have certain skills in this area.
Is reimbursement of the exoskeleton already possible?
Carolin Mühle: In part, yes, because a key aspect is that we are not only purely preventative, but can also help with reintegration. We also have the relevant ISO certification for this and are therefore able to have the costs of the BionicBack reimbursed by funding bodies in some cases.
For preventive use, the purchase of 2,800 euros is still at one's own expense. We offer a two-week test phase for 500 euros. This money will then be credited towards the purchase. As a rule, the BionicBack is purchased by companies. In the meantime, the BionicBack and exoskeletons in general have not only successfully positioned themselves on the market, but are also beginning to gain increasing importance with cost bearers – which further underlines their relevance and significance.
But at REHACARE in particular, we actually had a few cases of informal caregivers asking about the product. And we will now take the first steps towards the care insurance companies. That was actually a little further down our roadmap. But one thing is certain: family carers are the largest group of carers in Germany. And they need support.
Carolin Mühle is Business Development Manager at Help Tech GmbH.
What challenges are nursing staff facing today?
Carolin Mühle: It starts with the fact that back pain is very widespread in nursing. This has been proven many times by studies. Most nursing staff suffer from back pain at some point because the working conditions are very difficult, sometimes intolerable.
In home care, certain assistive devices cannot be used at all due to the spatial conditions. And in stationary care, there is a massive shortage of nursing staff. This makes it all the more serious when staff are absent for long periods due to back pain. After all, you can't just leave people lying around. The remaining staff must therefore take on the additional tasks that arise. In the end, the quality of care drops. The people who need care notice this.
But we also see the economic challenge for the companies. A nurse who is absent costs between 300 and 500 euros a day – including all social security contributions – plus the extra work that the remaining nurses have to do and any shortfalls in bed occupancy. This leads to massive economic consequences.
What possibilities does the exoskeleton open up in nursing?
Carolin Mühle: The BionicBack is a puzzle piece for a holistic concept, which is often not used as the sole measure, but can be used as an opportunity to rethink the entire ergonomic conditions of the facility. The turnaround starts with care management. There, you have to ask yourself what else you can do in addition to the option of using the aid. Is it perhaps possible to reassess the risks? Is it perhaps possible to introduce a new care concept? Or should we do more educational work in general with regard to ergonomic risks?
Nursing is a wonderful job, it can be incredibly fulfilling if the conditions are right. And that's exactly what nursing homes want to convey to their employees. With the BionicBack, we can definitely give some impetus to this way of thinking. After all, new and modern technologies must also find their way into the care sector in order to make the industry fit for the future.
At REHACARE 2023, visitors were able to see the BionicBack in action.
What is the significance of participating in a trade fair like REHACARE?
Carolin Mühle: The significance is strong. We don't have digital technology, we are completely analog. And the technology is simply much more tangible for most people if you can try it out. So a trade fair like this has a massive impact on us.
At REHACARE, for example, we met an impressive number of representatives for people with severe disabilities. But we also met nursing staff, decision-makers from the nursing sector and ergotherapists, who have a completely different view of the BionicBack. People who work in intensive care units have a completely different approach and completely different routines than people from geriatric care. This gives us a lot of insight into the individual and diverse challenges of the industry.
We don't yet have the time resources to deal in depth with all areas of nursing, because the field is really large. But as a company, we also don't want to just send out a bunch of e-mailings or make masses of phone calls. That would be completely impersonal. That wouldn't make sense for us, because our core business is comprehensive consulting. Attending events and trade fairs is part of that. Personal contact there is incredibly important to us.
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