Japan manufacturers target rehabilitation robot market

Japan Economic Newswire |

Japanese manufacturers are stepping up development of healthcare rehabilitation robots, as the global market for such equipment is expected to grow rapidly.

Companies inside and outside the medical industry seek to tap into the medical robot market. The global rehabilitation robot market is forecast to grow 24.51 percent over the five years through 2020, according to market research firm Infiniti Research Ltd.

Demand for rehabilitation robots could be particularly strong in Japan given the nation's rapidly graying as well as shrinking population.

Rehabilitation robots are expected to help elderly people regain the use of legs or other limbs and avoid becoming bed-ridden. They also enable patients to train on their own and without medical staff assistance, a major attraction in a nation with a dwindling population of working age people to care for its mushrooming number of retirees.

In September, Toyota Motor Corp. plans to start leasing a robot designed to aid in the rehabilitation of people with lower limb paralysis.

The Japanese auto giant will lease the wearable robotic leg brace jointly developed with Fujita Health University to medical institutions, with an initial cost of 1.08 million yen ($9,500) and a monthly fee of 378,000 yen per unit.

Also, Panasonic Corp. and Keio University have been conducting clinical trials of a robot developed to help recover the use of the paralyzed fingers of a hand.

When such a patient wants to move their fingers, the robot recognizes the patient's intention from brain waves through censors and assists in performing the desired motion.

The electronics maker headquartered in Osaka Prefecture aims for practical use of the robot in three years.

Teijin Pharma Ltd., the healthcare business unit of synthetic fibers maker Teijin Ltd., last autumn launched a robotic arm to help with upper limb paralysis rehabilitation.

The ReoGo-J device is already being used at such facilities as Kansai Rehabilitation Hospital, known for its advanced medical treatment.

A man in his 30s, paralyzed on the right side of the body, has been exercising with the robot for 20 to 30 minutes every day since last autumn.

"I finally became able to move my arm a little bit," he said.

"Technological renovation will change the way therapists work," Tomosaburo Sakamoto, the director of Kansai Rehabilitation Hospital, said.

Rehabilitation robots are expected to spread further in Japan if treatment using them were covered by the national health insurance system.

"The (rehabilitation robot) market has not been established yet," said Teijin Pharma President Akihisa Nabeshima, adding he hopes the robot treatment will be covered by the insurance system in a few years.


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