Hanger and AT&T announced that the two companies have developed a standalone, network-connected device for prosthetic limbs.
The device prototype is designed to be attached to below-the-knee prostheses. It is simple and mobile and syncs directly to the cloud through AT&T’s network without needing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or a separate mobile device. Because of the connectivity, Hanger Clinic can receive the data about prosthetic usage beyond clinical settings. With the data, clinicians at Hanger Clinic can contact patients about potential issues that are affecting prosthesis usage like fit and comfort to help increase mobility.
“Becoming an amputee can be an emotional, traumatic experience,” Aaron Flores, Hanger Clinic VP, said in a press release. “Transitioning from living with a fully functioning leg to a prosthesis requires re-learning how to walk entirely. Unfortunately, not everyone knows when or how to talk to us about potential challenges. This device will give us a window into patients’s daily experiences and equip us with a level of connectivity we’ve never had before, and in turn, provide even better patient care.”
People who experience limb loss can become overwhelmed with finding a way to restore mobility, according to the two companies. Some don’t know where to begin and might not communicate some of their challenges with doctors, which can result in not using prosthesis.
“After my amputation, I wasn’t sure how to tackle my life – where I’d left off, where I’d be going,” said Andrew Montgomery, a professional acrobat who had a below-the-knee amputation after a motorcycle accident three years ago.
The Hanger and AT&T-developed prototype uses a flexible and nimble design process. It combines an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and an LTE-M modem into a compact device. Through a number of different prototypes, the companies were able to gain new information on where to install different components, how to balance weight to make a prosthetic comfortable with the prototype, the best way to capture and transmit data about speed, impact force, direction and rotation.
The companies also prototyped an iOS app to put the data into action. Patients could see day-to-day progress through the app. Patients could also video call with Hanger Clinic providers about issues with their device. Clinicians can also view a patient’s activity levels and reach out to patients who show low activity or irregularities.
“Because this device is intended to become a physical part of Hanger’s patients, the technology driving it needed to be intuitive and seamless while providing benefits to both the patient and the caregiver,” Vishy Gopalakrishnan, VP of AT&T Ecosystem and Innovation, said. “The AT&T Foundry is uniquely suited to help customers like Hanger quickly solve these types of challenges. Through close customer collaboration, a proven ability to rapidly prototype the test solutions, and our advanced knowledge of connectivity, we’re able to move these revolutionary concepts to market faster than once possible.”
Hanger is trialing five of the prosthetic devices with some of its current patients. The two companies plan to take the best components of the proof-of-concept to create a fully functional product for the next steps.
“At Hanger, we know to best meet our patients’s needs, we need to be the most digitally connected company in O&P, so we can connect with our patients wherever they may be,” Vinit Asar, Hanger’s president and CEO, said. “Collaborating with AT&T on this prototype not only allows us to equip our patients with the tools they need to get their lives back on track faster, but also helps us solidify our life-long commitment to them.”