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Automating Shoulder Care and Upper Body Rehab with Data-Driven Robotics

Harmonic Bionics, led by a highly talented and successful leadership team with vast medical device experience, is a commercial-stage robotics and digital health company disrupting the $12B physical medicine and rehabilitation US markets. An aging population and increase in chronic conditions have produced a steady and growing need for physical therapy in the US and throughout the world. Over 800,000 people have a stroke every year in the US alone, and only 5% of patients with upper limb weakness or immobility regain full functional use of the affected arm. This leaves 7 million chronic stroke patients in the US today along with millions of other patients being treated for conditions that cause movement impairments such as shoulder injuries, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and muscular dystrophy.

And physical therapy is just that––physical. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, a member survey with 882 participants indicated a 20.7% one-year incidence rate of a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) for physical therapists. That means one in five therapists will experience a WMSD in any given year that they are practicing. In an industry that is labor-intensive, we’re also facing a labor shortage––The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates over 49,000 physical therapist positions will need filling by 2030, and while physical therapists are currently required to obtain a doctorate degree, occupational therapists will soon require the same. Enter the robots.

Harmonic Bionics’ Harmony SHR™ is a bilateral upper extremity rehabilitation robotic system dynamically designed to provide unique value in three areas of practice: neuroscience and movement science research, movement disorder assessment, and rehabilitation. Harmony’s biomechanically matched shoulder design allows a larger and more natural range of motion for patients than any other upper body exoskeleton on the market. And with over 80 sensors recording at up to 2,000 times per second, Harmony is bringing an unprecedented amount of precise measurements and data to a field that heavily relies on subjective assessment methods. Besides having an overworked and disenchanted workforce, another problem the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation is facing is the lack of objectivity in the industry standard protocols for diagnosing movement disorders and measuring patient outcomes. The latest MedPac report noted that provider-reported functional improvement was not even considered for IRFs (inpatient rehab facilities) because there is such “a concern over the integrity of the data”.

“The shoulder joint is the most complex joint in the human body and having a device that actually allows the full degree of freedom, not only makes therapy more beneficial, but it also allows our therapists and patients to optimize their recovery,” said Dr. Robert Lee, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician, Austin, TX. “And in terms of data, so much of what we do nowadays is data driven and having Harmony constantly collecting data from therapy session to therapy session will provide clinicians and researchers with thousands of data points that we otherwise wouldn't have.” For those seeking treatment for any conditions that impair upper body movement (stroke, spinal cord injury, rotator cuff tear, brachial plexus injury, etc.), Harmony can act as a diagnostic tool for providers recording a patient’s ability (joint angle, force generation, etc.) at baseline and throughout the recovery process. This dynamic ability to create snapshots of an individual’s kinematics combined with strength will enable researchers and caregivers to optimize and standardize the treatment process therefore driving higher quality interventions, increasingly predictable outcomes, and significant cost-savings to facilities and payers. Harmonic Bionics recently announced the purchase of a Harmony SHR system by the University of Houston to be used for stroke rehab research led by Dr. Jinsook Roh, assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering, and her team at the Rehabilitation Engineering for Improving Neuromotor control (REIGN) Lab. Dr. Roh is a 2022 National Science Foundation CAREER award recipient, and her research focuses on the neural mechanisms of motor coordination in able-bodied and neurologically impaired individuals. “We know that Harmony’s unique design and high-speed, high-fidelity sensors open up more research capabilities and we’re excited to see what a world-renowned researcher like Dr. Roh and her team at the University of Houston can accomplish,” said Harmonic Bionics CEO Christopher Prentice. “Our mission is to create enabling technology that improves patient outcomes through data-driven rehabilitation practices and this partnership with UH is just the beginning.” To learn more about Harmonic Bionics, visit

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