Recently we had the opportunity to interview Jürgen Mack, a physiotherapist from Ulm, Germany. A few weeks before, he and his practice team were able to take a closer look at AnyHand in one-day product trial. However, the interview is not only about our hand therapy robot, but also about the motivation for hand therapy and why you shouldn't miss out on innovations.
How did the AnyHand product trial go in your practice?
The patients liked AnyHand and the implementation in therapy went very well. In the beginning we had to pay special attention to wrist’s position in case of tendon injuries. We had to try out some positions so there was no tension on the tendon. But in terms of functionality and acceptance, it worked excellently. It is a very good addition to everyday therapy, allowing patients to gain even more function.
How did you become aware of LIME in the first place?
I heard Pascal on SWR1 radio! I found out his contact details via SWR and sent him an e-mail. It was a great contact right from the start. From time to time Pascal visited us here in Ulm, so that we could accompany the development. It was a very exciting and interesting process and Pascal was always open for things we noticed and could develop further. The first meeting took place quite early in the development process - we've known each other for almost four years. Since then, it has been a continuous process.
There are not many specialized hand therapists among the physiotherapists. Why did you decide for hand therapy?
The nice thing about hand treatments is the clearly defined goal: it is always about gaining back function as fast as possible, no matter if someone is young or old or in what kind of working area. A lot of parameters can be evaluated during hand therapy and there is a clear pattern of findings. The patients’ motivation is usually very high, especially when it comes to reintegration into work life.
Normally the patient does not have a daily therapy session in the practice. How does the independent training at home work?
At home, people usually train enough, and the cooperation is excellent. And if not, I have a clarifying conversation with the patient. The most important thing is the precise instruction of the exercises. That is the same for the home use of AnyHand: the familiarization is crucial.
What do you think about using AnyHand at home to bridge the time between sessions in practice?
Definitely very helpful as an additional supplement. This can be the next step once longer-term patient acceptance and functionality have been tested. Patients with tendon injuries and other more serious injuries such as fractures must be very well instructed, although I don't see this as a problem. Nowadays, an app can communicate the instructions very well and the course of therapy can be monitored via webcam or during a tele-consultation.
Do you think that the technical means for home use could lead to difficulties for older generations who are less technically minded?
I think people underestimate elderly patients! If you instruct them well and give good explanations about what to do at home, it works. Technology is so user-friendly nowadays. Many 70- or 80-year-olds today have their smartphones. So it may not work for all people, but you definitely have to offer it to everybody. It wouldn't be good to make a blanket exception for elderly people. The app must be easy to understand, and the instructions very clear.
Not only patients but also therapists have to learn how to use AnyHand. What motivates you to try out innovations?
I have been following this for four years, so here is my thought: absolutely! You cannot just ignore these things. And especially when you realize: "that's worth something!" it would be nonsensical to speak out against it. You can use it therapeutically well, so that the patient benefits from it.
There's even a study planned with AnyHand, right?
Exactly. We work a lot with the hand surgery department at the University Hospital in Ulm. And two years ago, I pointed out LIME’s product. Pascal got in touch with the department and Prof. Dr. Menztel and Senior Physician Bauknecht directly joined in. Dr. Bauknecht also immediately suggested a study, which should now start in November or December. A doctoral student will accompany the study in our practice.
So, the study takes place at your practice?
Yes, that is super exciting, that is ideal! We are happy that it is taking place because we are working in a field that really needs the scientific background. You simply have to have proof that AnyHand can be used in a goal-oriented way. For example, it has to be proven that less tendon adhesion are caused or that patients can return to work more quickly.
Sometimes we are confronted with the idea that we could replace the human therapist with a robot. What is your opinion on this?
Of course I would contradict that. The patient benefits from more exercise therapy and could thus avoid adhesions. We know this from similar robots for knee and shoulder. It also supports the success of our therapy if we use AnyHand before and after manual therapy. I see it more as a benefit than a substitute. AnyHand has absolutely proven its right to be used, I support it 100%.
I am pleased that there are young companies like LIME that are pushing things and that you can work with so well. And it is a product with a clear effect. That's why it would be nonsense to say that it destroys human therapy. On the contrary: it gets us further.
About Jürgen Mack
At the beginning of his career, he completed a massage and physiotherapy training and worked as a sports physiotherapist, suitably in handball. In further training he got to know hand therapy and developed his field of interest. Finally, he passed his exams as a hand therapist and opened his practice in 2011, which has been awarded as a focus practice by the German Association for Hand Therapy (DAHTH). Every year he and his team carry out up to 7000 hand treatments.