Johanna Perraudin speaks to French tech firm EzyGain about its mission to make physical rehabilitation more accessible.
Zineb Agoumi’s grandmother was the inspiration behind the launch of EzyGain in 2015.
As her grandmother was often falling at home, she researched ways of practicing walking securely.
She quickly noticed that most physical rehabilitation machines tended to be bulky, expensive and complex to use – and therefore the preserve of big health centres.
Alternatively, there were simple treadmills which could not be adapted to every patient.
As an engineer by trade, Agoumi did not have the medical background to start the Ezygain adventure on her own.
She thus reached out to Dr. Thierry Albert, a clinician specialising in neurological rehabilitation.
During over 20 years in this profession, he’d noticed many patients returning after their initial care because a lack of regular physical activity had halted or reversed their progress.
The EzyGain team therefore decided to create machines offering gait rehabilitation exercises that would be accessible firstly to smaller centres and, later, to patients themselves in the home.
Their first machine, Ema, is designed for hospitals, rehabilitation centres, and rest homes. It is a relatively small and affordable machine which enables patients who have trouble walking independently — including those who use wheelchairs — to walk safely and securely.
Patients are put into a standing position, wearing a harness which supports depending on their condition, and allows them to practice walking safely.
Ema has sensors which provide an analysis of the patient’s gait and balance. Both the patient and the health provider can track progress on an app.
The app itself also contains virtual environments and games that can be used on a tablet or with a virtual reality headset.
Virtual environments make the practice more engaging and realistic, while games enable patients to improve their gait and balance in a playful way.
Games are adapted to the level and condition of the patients to continually ramp up their progress.
They also enable dual task training, which allows patients to improve both their gait and cognitive abilities. Dual task training has proven effective for many patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and stroke.
Ema is adapted for other conditions too, including Alzheimer’s and MS.
In Parkinson’s, for example, it supports metronome therapy — a useful way to reduce the freezing episodes associated with the disease.
EzyGain’s new device, Amy, is designed for home. It is small (less than one sq m), foldable and easy to use.
It also comes with a safety harness for patients to practice securely. Patients can use the app — similar to the professional version — to check their progress and performance and play games.
They can run remote sessions with a coach specialised in physical rehabilitation or simply practice improving their gait on their own.
Agoumi has always wanted to develop a home rehabilitation device. However, she previously felt resistance to the idea in the wider world.
“Since I’ve started EzyGain in 2015, home rehabilitation has never really been discussed seriously. There were projects, ambitions, but it was never a reality.”
However, with some rehab patients having to stay confined at home and some Covid patients having to go through rehabilitation after being in intensive care, it has triggered a collective consciousness about the necessity of home rehabilitation.
“We were already developing Amy when Covid-19 started, but for us, it is really encouraging that people finally see the point in doing rehabilitation from home.”
As a result of Covid-19, EzyGain has been contacted by many centres who are opening post-Covid departments for patients who were in intensive care and now need long-term recovery.
For such centres, the size of Ema is an asset as it is easy to move from one room to another.
“The fact that some people are confined at home does not happen only because of lockdown, it happens everyday for some patients who live in remote areas and do not have a physiotherapist available near their home.”
Amy is on track to be commercialised by the end of 2020.
A demo video of Ema can be seen below: