Exoskeletons for the healthcare sector: German Bionic presents first power suit dedicated to supporting nursing and care professionals

Berlin-based robotics company German Bionic unveils the Apogee+ powered exoskeleton, a groundbreaking solution specifically designed to offer optimal support for caregivers. Developed based on the latest advancements in nursing care research, this innovative technology aims to improve the well-being of nursing and care professionals, bringing about healthier and more sustainable working conditions.

An individual wearing a sleek exoskeleton, supporting an elderly man up from a wheel chair
The Apogee+ from German Bionic: Flexible support for the challenges of day-to-day patient care.

Berlin/Paris, June 8, 2023 | Robotics innovator German Bionic will debut a world first at Europe’s leading technology trade fair VivaTech 2023, which will take place in Paris from June 14 to 17: The first powered exoskeleton specifically designed for use in a healthcare environment. The user-friendly “Apogee+” provides caregivers with support while lifting and walking, is dust and waterproof, and has been tailored to meet specific criteria for the healthcare sector: Besides the convenient handles on which patients being lifted can grab hold of, the casing has been designed to be especially easy to clean and disinfect. In the wake of the Covid pandemic at the latest, it has become clear that innovative concepts are urgently needed in the face of the ongoing serious crises in the healthcare sector. “With its full range of features, our new Apogee+ power suit is designed to help ease the at times extremely demanding working conditions in these system-critical professions, as well as to make the jobs safer and more sustainable,” says Armin G. Schmidt, CEO and founder of German Bionic. “We firmly believe that our smart companions will soon become an indispensable part of everyday practice in clinics and nursing homes.” The Apogee+ is available immediately in Japan and Western Europe, with other regions following shortly.   

Background: Numerous studies have consistently highlighted the immense levels of stress endured by nursing and care staff, often stemming from challenging working conditions, and the high amount of physical exertion that poses a health risk, as well as an overall lack of appreciation for their vital role. The gravity of these challenges was further underscored during the Covid pandemic. Consequently, these factors frequently contribute to early retirement from the profession. Disturbing data from the German health insurers AOK and TK show a sharp rise in sickness rates among nursing and other caregivers. Simultaneously, demographic shifts are fueling a growing demand for qualified care personnel. This combination intensifies the existing labor shortage crisis. Recently, in response to alarming survey findings, the German social welfare organization Diakonie emphasized the urgent need for policymakers to embrace a radical reconsideration to ensure the preservation of nursing care services and prevent a collapse of the system.

Strengthening the appreciation for and appeal of the nursing profession

“In addition to delivering numerous practical benefits, equipping caregivers with cutting-edge wearable tools serves as a powerful testament to the value a care facility places on its employees,” says Norma Steller, Chief Product Officer at German Bionic. “Empowered by this technology, healthcare professionals can provide patients with the best possible care, with enhanced safety and reduced physical strain, consequently also lowering the risk of injuries.”

Considering the persisting shortage of skilled workers, the Apogee+ can also play a pivotal role in supporting recruitment efforts and even in enticing former nursing staff back into the profession. “State-of-the-art equipment significantly contributes to making nursing and care professions more appealing,” emphasizes Norma Steller. “And therefore, it aids hospitals and care facilities in their pursuit of attracting and retaining a qualified and motivated workforce.”

Flexible support for many use cases in everyday nursing care

There are numerous scenarios in clinical, nursing, and geriatric work where assistance with lifting and carrying motions is crucial. These include transferring patients between beds and wheelchairs, aiding in medical examinations, facilitating washing and changing procedures, repositioning immobile patients, or assisting them in assuming a more comfortable or upright position.

Undertaking these tasks without proper support poses as health risk in the medium and long term and, in severe cases, may force caregivers into early retirement. The Apogee+ exoskeleton addresses this challenge by alleviating the strain on the back, providing up to 30 kilograms of support for each lifting movement. Weight compensation is, however, not the sole focus – ergonomics during patient interaction is also crucial. “Caregivers often find themselves performing activities, such as washing patients, in an awkward and unergonomic forward-bending posture,” explains Norma Steller, Chief Product Officer at German Bionic. “In such cases, the Apogee+ offers support through its counterforce mode.”

Lightening the load and protecting health – tailored to caregivers’ needs

The development of the Apogee+ is firmly grounded in the latest research in nursing care. When integrating exoskeletons into the nursing field, it is crucial to adapt them to the specific conditions prevalent in everyday care settings. In the highly sensitive realm of nursing care, ensuring optimal coordination between the human wearer and the machine is paramount, particularly in terms of acceptance by the care recipients.

German Bionic has established partnerships with renowned healthcare institutions such as Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and BG Unfallklinikum Murnau. The outcomes of recent nursing research indicate that active (powered) exoskeletons, such as the Apogee+, offer flexible and reliable support to nursing staff, effectively alleviating their daily workload on the ward. This stands in contrast to the limited utilization of existing devices like lifting cranes or fully automated approaches such as nursing robots.

Key features: Apogee+ powered exoskeleton for healthcare

  • Supports lifting and walking: The Apogee+ provides active assistance during lifting and walking, offering up to 30 kilograms of relief per lift.
  • User-friendly for day-to-day care: Integrated grips on the exoskeleton enhance ease of lifting and repositioning patients, streamlining daily caregiving tasks.
  • Dust and waterproof: The Apogee+ enables greater flexibility such as when washing or showering patients, thanks to being waterproof to IP54.
  • High level of wearer comfort: The Apogee+ boasts a small, lightweight, and slim design, allowing it to flexibly adapt to the different movements of caregivers and be worn in the varied environments typically found in clinics and other healthcare facilities.
  • “Friendly” design: With its softer form and lighter colors, the Apogee+ exhibits an emotionally accessible and patient-friendly aesthetic.
  • Easy to disinfect: By adopting monocoque as the external framework, the Apogee+ has less surface area for bacteria and germs to accumulate. This also makes it easier to disinfect – an essential aspect in healthcare environments.
  • Reporting features: Extensive reporting functions help caregivers with the set-up and management of their workplace.
  • Flexible procurement models: German Bionic offers favorable purchase and leasing options for the deployment of exoskeleton solutions in nursing and care facilities.

German Bionic at VivaTech:
German Bionic’s new Apogee+ power suit debuts at the heart of Europe’s #1 tech event on the “Impact Mile” (Stand D26-004), from 14 – 17 June 2023 in Paris. (www.vivatechnology.com)

An individual wearing a sleek exoskeleton, supporting an elderly man into bed
The German Bionic Apogee+ actively supports lifting and moving patients.
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