Haptic Link: Innovation in rehabilitation: strength training powered by an electric motor

Many people who have undergone rehabilitation are familiar with the loss of muscle mass. But it’s also a common problem for older people. Healthcare startup HapticLink has the solution: its Reforter is an investment in rehabilitation innovation. We spoke to CFO Matthijs Stevens about the medical innovation and their entrepreneurial tales.

“My journey with HapticLink started in 2021”, recalls Matthijs. “My friend and the inventor of the Reforter, Peter Martens, approached me with this fascinating device. I immediately saw its potential and knew I had to join this venture.”

“With HapticLink, we aim to offer advanced and efficient solutions for assessment, treatment and prevention of physical impairment – for everyone”, Matthijs explains. “That’s how the idea of the Reforter was born. It’s an intelligent muscle strength assessment and training device. We are currently testing the prototype and are trying to medically certify the machine. Which I am sure we will succeed in!”

Electricity’s advantages

The Reforter is like a pole, with a handle at training height that you can pull. At the top of the device is a built-in electric motor. This motor calculates the power, force and speed at which the patient pulls. Matthijs explains: “When you exercise, you can see exactly what you do with feedback on the screen. With the help of smart technology, you get to see reports, and you can see your progress. Moreover, the Reforter continuously measures what you are doing and adjusts the resistance accordingly.”

The Reforter is very suitable for rehabilitation. Because it can also handle low forces. You don’t have to adjust the device, but the patient decides how much force to use. “If you have had shoulder surgery, for example, and want to start training again to increase your muscle mass, then strength training is necessary. But you can’t apply too much force right away because it hurts. As a patient, with the Reforter, you can easily create an optimal load yourself in the different recovery phases.”

The Reforter also brings innovation to eccentric training. Matthijs explains: “Every exercise has two phases: the concentric phase (shortens your muscles) and the eccentric phase (lengthens your muscles). In that second phase, you bring the resistance back down with your arm. You are stronger compared to the first phase. But if you train with weights, you only train your muscles in the first phase, not when you lower the weight. The Reforter solves that by providing resistance in the eccentric phase as well.”

Strength training for older people

Sooner or later, many older people suffer from sarcopenia, a condition in which muscle is lost faster than it is made. As a result, muscle strength decreases and your physical function deteriorates. “It is important to recognise the loss of muscle mass at an early stage. That’s the best way to prevent falling. The Reforter can also play an essential role by starting with the right training to avoid injuries.”

“For example, when older people go to the physiotherapist for strength training with our device, their muscle mass won’t decrease further. If older people can move independently for a longer time, they can also stay fit and mobile for longer, without falling. We additionally want to achieve that with the Reforter: provide an easy and accessible way to stay active.”

The tales of a startup

“Many people see similar equipment in the gym and do not immediately see the benefit of our innovation,” explains Matthijs. “But it has many benefits. Especially when it comes to rehabilitation; that’s why we also do demos for physiotherapists. That way, they can see and experience for themselves what the Reforter can do. So far, the response has been enthusiastic: no less than 17 out of the 20 physiotherapists we visited wanted one immediately! We have also received a lot of useful feedback on the performance of the Reforter. This makes my entrepreneurial heart beat faster.”

Of course, entrepreneurship has its challenges, such as finding funding. “Fortunately, we also get help from Briskr with their seminars on various topics with excellent speakers. But also with their annual Investment Day event in cooperation with Radboudumc, Radboud University and Oost NL. This has been a great opportunity for us to expand our network and present our product.”

At HapticLink, they dare to dream of the future. “Our ultimate goal? A Reforter in every physiotherapy practice and nursing home. That way, we can help people to (re)gain mobility and therefore remain independent & healthy for a longer time!”