Stacy, can you tell us about the product's origin?
Stacey Bamberg: Veristride was formed specifically to help people who are going through rehab; initially, amputees and stroke patients. We've been funded by the [National Science Foundation] and [National Institute of Health] to help amputees walk with less of a limp.
We've been building out high-res bio-sensor insoles that connect to an app for real time feedback, it's meant to supplement what the patient is doing at home in between visits to the Physical Therapist [PT].
For amputees, it gives them audio cues on each step, and for stroke patients it shows them pictures of their force asymmetry from step-to-step so they can work on addressing that at home. Then all the data goes to our server for a deep-dive analysis that even the patients can log in to if they have the interest or they're curious, or their physical therapist can log in.
Is it operational already?
Stacey: Yes, it's in a [Research &Development] phase. We're fundraising this Spring, the grant money we received is great because it's paid for the tech, but it doesn't pay for sales and marketing.
People who are out of coverage for physical therapy often pay $70 out of pocket for a PT visit. Or, on the premises we work with, patients pay $230 a month to come in to get additional PT. This [pictured above] is $100 for 100 hours on the battery, to give them this sort of feedback at home. They can stream it to the phone if they want the data in real time, or it can store the data and forward it if they walk away from the phone.
The big customers that we're targeting in our three-to-five-year goal are health care institutions and insurers. We think they're going to realize that they benefit from having compliance data and that they can provide better care if the PTs have access to the information about how the patients are doing at home. Because of ACA [the Affordable Care Act] they're also going to have to provide documentation on outcomes, that is, how the patient looked before and after physical therapy. But they're a big slow moving cruise ship.
The PTs are desperate for this, and the patients really want something, so we made it as low cost as we could so we can start to build up that database and then show the health care systems, "Okay, here's the data we got. Look at all the things you can do with it." Ideally, down the road, the insurers are paying for the device to go on the patients shoe, so they can do better medicine at lower cost.
In terms of the therapy and the gait training that you're currently doing, is most of it the traditional, person-walking-down-the-room-between-parallel-bars, or do you have access to the larger, more expensive gait-training machines?
Stacey: Some of our PTs have got their gym and that's what they're doing [the parallel bars]. As a medical device, our initial product is a "Class One" - we're measuring, not practicing, medicine. So the first product is just to enable the PTs to do their job better. Whether they're putting someone on a Lokomat [gait-training machine] or a treadmill or the bars, so, when they say, 'Try your hip flexor," they can actually see if that's budging the needle on the force that's on the impaired limb.
When someone gets this sensor with the ghost on it - would they just make the cut-outs in their insole and insert it themselves?
Stacey: Yes. This is our proof of concept, coming out in the Spring for pre sales. This we put in shoes right now. We usually just buy a wider version of the patients shoe size, pop it in under their insoles, and as long as people don't have flat feet - as long as they've got some arch - they really don't feel it . Also, a lot of stroke patients wear orthotics, so this goes under the orthotics and they don't even notice it, it's designed to go under the orthotics.
The long term goal is it looks just like Dr Scholls, you take out your insole and you pop this in and it gives you all the data, it connects. We want our first device to be under $100. That's the hard bit, but this next version actually has a rechargeable battery and a wireless coil. The idea would be you put this in your shoes and then you put your shoes on the mat at night and it recharges.
What's your personal history in this space?
Stacey: I've actually been working with patients and PTs for 15 years. The best story around Veristride is actually the very first amputee we tested it on, he was in his 20s, he'd been in an ATV accident, he's a bilateral amputee and had a pretty significant limp. We took him out to the courtyard with the very early version, which just beeped at you if you were over a certain threshold of asymmetry. He was a kid who liked video gaming, and the look on his face when he got it to stop beeping was just priceless.
Beyond that, we found out that there is this real thirst for patient data. For him to see the numbers on the screen, that showed his asymmetry that he was feeling and struggling with, it almost brought tears to his eyes, it was really compelling. That was 2006, so it's been a long road but we're really excited to almost have it in patients' shoes.
If, outside of this endeavor, you had unlimited resources, unlimited personnel at your disposal, what big world problem would you solve?
Stacey: People always ask us, is this good for runners? I'll take it to running when we can add to the mix by doing injury prevention. My real passion is rehab, and mobility is something you never appreciate until you lose it. I would like to get everybody who has some sort of mobility issue, able to walk at the level they would like to walk.