Following successful Australian hospital trials, digital health company ableX has announced a capital raising round to fund growth and expansion of its cloud-based stroke rehabilitation system.

Aiming to raise $1.2 million, the subscription-based ‘tele-rehabilitation’ for limb and cognitive function will seek investors to expand its partnerships with the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Perth’s Perron Institute.

There are over 700 ableX units currently in use in hospitals, clinics and patients’ homes around the world, and the new capital will allow the company to access significant immediate growth and expansion opportunities.

“New capital will enable the company to work with its partners, Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Perron Institute in Perth, to successfully roll out the ableX solution into existing healthcare services in Australia. It will also enable the company to explore opportunities for expansion into other markets and become a successful global healthcare business,” ableX CEO Elliott Kernohan said.

ableX was founded in 2010 as a treatment option for major neurological conditions such as stroke and dementia. The technology allows several people to be treated at the same time in hospital or their homes with one lead therapist, reducing the costs of rehabilitation to the healthcare system.

It incorporates wireless handlebar and “armskate” devices together with a software recovery program for faster neurological recovery and improved mobility in survivors’ hands and arms.

“ableX would like to see all patients that could benefit from the technology have access to the system as part of their long-term rehabilitation,” Kernohan said.

Strokes are a leading cause of disability in Australia, according to The Stroke Foundation, with about 1000 strokes occurring every week – or one every 10 minutes. About 30 per cent of stroke survivors are of working age, while 65 per cent suffer a disability that impedes their ability to carry out daily living activities unassisted. The financial cost in Australia is estimated to be $5 billion each year.

Colin Weston suffered a severe stroke four years ago at the age of 53.

“I never thought a stroke would happen to me and when it did, in my head I was thinking, ‘What just happened?’ But there was no response in my body. I was terrified. In a few seconds I went from being fit and healthy and out for a bike ride with my family, to a total mess. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move my arms and hands. I just wanted to sleep all day,” Weston said.  

“I was in hospital for three months and left in a wheelchair, unable to look after myself. I basically couldn’t do anything, and nobody could tell me to what extent I would recover, if at all.”

Weston was offered one hour of physiotherapy a week but his wife, Fiona, discovered ableX and after one month he said he could grip the handlebar.

“The difference it made psychologically too was huge and, the thing is, I could do this little and often. It was fun, so I wanted to keep doing it. I could also see results, so as well as having a direct impact I felt I could try other things too.”

Weston said four years after his stroke he is job hunting.

In 2014/15, the Royal Melbourne Hospital ran a clinical study with 92 patients using ableX in the hospital three times a week. Five patients were treated in each session by one therapist. The data showed significant improvements in arm function and strength, as well as patient mobility, quality of life and overall health. The positive outcomes for patients and the hospital led to a fully randomised “gold-standard” clinical trial with 200 patients using ableX in their homes, which is underway.

As part of the assessment of ableX for health funding, the Perron Institute used the system in the treatment of five patients, then a further 20 stroke survivors for three months. It will soon be rolled out to 400 patients as part of a funded health service.

Neurological rehabilitation is resource intensive, meaning fewer patients achieve their potential for long-term functional recovery. Stroke patients’ arm and hand functions have a critical impact on their ability to live independently.

Capital raising will be held in the week of July 31.

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