Fall prevention has been recognized as a critical factor in maintaining health and independence of older adults. Simbex, in collaboration with Mark Grabiner, PhD, Director of the Clinical Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Laboratory at the University of Illinois-Chicago, collaborated to address this challenging issue. Dr. Grabiner had a 20+ year history of funded research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the biomechanics of falls. His research indicated that a clinical intervention could reduce the incidence of falls in the older adult population. Simbex obtained funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for translation of Dr. Grabiner’s research into a commercial product, ActiveStep®.
Although the product concept and technology requirements were based on decades of research, much less was known about the market requirements for a large piece of capital equipment in the rehabilitation and physical therapy space, including both what would be effective treatment for the individual and how to best implement ActiveStep within the environment and workflow of a rehabilitation clinic. It was also important to further evaluate the effectiveness of ActiveStep across a broad range of users to reinforce Dr. Grabiner’s initial findings and to provide clinical data for marketing.
During the development of ActiveStep®, Simbex became fully immersed in gathering and understanding market and product requirements for an initial, proof-of-concept product. Technical requirements provided from the research model were merged with market requirements to develop initial product requirements.
Based on user feedback from physical therapists and clinicians, the device needed to be stand alone, easy to set up and use with a patient, and be able to provide dynamic perturbations. Software requirements for clinical users were different than research users, therefore basic and advanced screens were implemented with relevant levels of complexity and function. The product needed to support the patient’s weight during therapy in the event of a trip, slip, and fall – an aesthetic but robust arch was added along with a security harness for safety.
Today, ActiveStep® has been sold to rehabilitation centers throughout the country, including multiple Veterans Affairs medical centers and prestigious academic rehabilitation centers. A recent five-year, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funded clinical study has demonstrated a significant reduction in falls and injurious falls compared to conventional fall prevention therapy, ActiveStep is poised to reduce falls, lower the cost of healthcare and dramatically improve the lives of the older adult population.
“By leveraging our biomechanics expertise and experience in the rehabilitation market, we were able to integrate complex engineering and sensing systems with software based training programs to optimize the clinical intervention and patient benefits.”