Written by Eitan Kyiet, CEO of Road2

New technologies have provided doctors and hospital practitioners with the tools to vastly improve patient care while reducing their workloads. Practically every element of healthcare has been transformed, from booking appointments to diagnostics to surgical procedures. However, the post-surgical process, including patient rehabilitation, remains largely untapped. That’s where electronic gamification comes in—the up-and-coming AI innovation has the potential to elevate patient care way beyond the hospital room.

Israel is paving the way in this field. Several Israeli startups are already experimenting with gamifying rehabilitation to improve post-surgical care and physical therapy. Israel is well-positioned to pioneer and spearhead this approach due to its vast know-how in both high-tech and healthcare.The country’s innovative research institutions, hospitals, and high-tech scene can join forces to make physical therapy much more manageable.

The benefits of gamifying rehab

Rehabilitation is often a physically and mentally exhausting process for patients, which includes tedious and mostly painful exercises. Caretakers are therefore constantly struggling to keep patients motivated and engaged, maintaining their routine. Shifting from traditional rehab to digitized, playful and interactive games has proven to be extremely effective, improving the therapy outcome and changing patients’ behaviors.

Gamification is also beneficial to caretakers—AI or VR games are far less physically demanding for the physical therapists. Importantly, the solutions used to gamify various training routines usually also come equipped with a stack of sensors that enhance the caregivers’ ability to monitor patients’ progress, tailoring the programs to their individual needs.

Israeli innovations in gamified therapy

While gamification of rehab is still in its early stages, there are several Israeli innovations that exemplify how effective the approach can be in advancing patient recovery. Israeli startup bobo develops technology-based games for physical recovery, providing interactive solutions that motivate patients to take on repetitive exercises. The company has multiple motion sensor-based solutions, including an interactive mat that improves balance and stability, bike pedals with visual feedback, and wearable gear that tracks the wearer’s movements. All of these sync with an app that provides training data, such as range of motion, endurance, and stability, which enables therapists to monitor and modify the routines.

Other companies are providing solutions for therapy for health maintenance. Studies show that physical functioning, cognitive and emotional health, and comorbidities of older adults significantly impact their physical wellbeing. Therefore, taking a proactive approach in improving all of those functions before they deteriorate is beneficial to the individual’s long-term health.

Israeli startup TakaroTech is maximizing the opportunity for healthy aging with its QNI platform for rehabilitation through games. QNI’s multitouch, interactive, LED playground allows for movement and cognition-based activities. Coupled with a mobile app, the platform provides users with a rehabilitation activity center via interactive AI-driven scenarios that are quantifiable and personalized.

The company built the QNI Aging solution specifically geared toward the elderly to target the most common geriatric concerns by providing physical-cognitive routines with fun and engaging activities. By helping the elderly stay healthy, TakarTech aims to enable them to maintain their functional abilities and independence, while also improving their mental and cognitive capacities.

Other Israeli startups are using gamification to help the disabled. 6Degrees Ltd. developed wearable MyMove+ to integrate games into treatment, allowing therapists to monitor personal progress while making treatments more fun for patients. The company is also developing a VR video game and hardware that will help disabled and amputee patients overcome the pain caused by phantom limb syndrome. The founders of 6Degrees, who both experienced injury and disability, created this technology to empower mobility-challenged individuals to gain independence.

The way forward

While Israel is currently the pioneer of gamified rehabilitation, the field is still in its inception. The key to bringing this technology to the forefront of rehabilitation and recovery depends on Israel making use of its unique strengths. The small country has some of the world’s most promising research institutions, such as the Technion, and health care campuses, such as Rambam Medical Center and Sheba Medical Center. These institutions must collaborate more with the hi-tech industry in order to advance medical technology. Coupled with gaming talent coming from institutions such as Tiltan in Haifa and others, combining these unique skills can bring about a breakthrough in gamification of many aspects of healthcare.

Often startup entrepreneurs present a problem or an idea and medical and academic institutions have the expertise and the research capacity to streamline innovation development. This is particularly true when it comes to medical innovation, which relies on the collaboration of industries to develop technology from an idea to a complete product. In order to advance gaming technology for rehabilitation worldwide, Israel must take precedence by strengthening current innovations while also leveraging industry collaboration.