Singapore clinic trials physiotherapy robot

By GovInsider

Better prepare for rise of ageing population.

A clinic in Singapore is trialling Emma, a robot masseuse that helps relieve patients’ strains and physical injuries.

Emma is made of a robotic arm, with a 3D-printed massage tip. The idea behind the robot is to “improve productivity”, allowing “one therapist to treat multiple patients”, said Albert Zhang, founder of AiTreat, the startup in charge.

So far, Kin Teck Tong clinic has trialled it on 50 patients with stiff muscles, lower back pain and muscle strains. Emma is also equipped with pressure sensors that can measure how stiff a muscle or tendon is.

Detailed diagnostics can be uploaded to the cloud so patients can measure their progress with precise data - a new approach in traditional Chinese medicine.

The tech holds promise to solve a manpower shortage and treat a rising number of ageing patients.

“Over the next decade, more people are going to suffer from physical ailments such as arthritis and will be seeking treatment”, said Coco Zhang, Executive Director of Kin Teck Tong, a chain of clinics specialising in injury rehabilitation.

“As the younger generation prefer knowledge-based jobs rather than physically intensive jobs such as massage therapists, there will likely be a shortage of trained therapists in future”, she added.

However, the clinic plans to open the service only after a more mature prototype has been developed. It is still in its first phase, and can only perform simple massages on a same spot, Elaine Ren, marketing manager for the clinic told GovInsider.

At the moment, therapists can still perform more than what the robot is capable of, she said.

To improve Emma’s service delivery, the clinic chain is working closely with AiTreat - incubated by the Nanyang Technological University - to test and gather feedback to develop and improve the model, she added.