While working toward his medical residency in Boston, Albert Kwon ’08 started a mental list of things he wanted to improve in the medical system.
“I took note of many problems in medicine that I thought technology could potentially solve,” says Kwon, who just completed training in general pediatrics and general anesthesia at both Boston Children’s and Brigham and Women’s hospitals and will be starting an interventional pain medicine fellowship at Stanford in January 2019. But when he thought about which of all the things on his list had the greatest potential for impact, one stood out: developing technology to help treat patients with brain trauma.
Kwon cofounded AUGMENTx, a health-care technology company that uses augmented reality to deliver neurological exercises for patients recovering from stroke, chronic pain, limb loss, and surgeries that require rehabilitation therapy. Often, patients who require neurological rehab have only a short stay in a rehab facility. Once they are sent home, where they don’t have access to the resources and staff to help facilitate exercises and measure improvement, their recovery diminishes. But by using augmented reality, AUGMENTx can provide a more interactive and effective means of engaging and continuing an effective rehab program. For example, mirror box therapy, which creates a visual illusion of a paralyzed, missing, or painful limb moving normally by mirroring the movements of the normal side, is often very effective but not readily available. AUGMENTx can re-create the exercise through its augmented-reality headset.
From the early stages of developing the company, Kwon and his cofounders looked for ways to make sure they could help as many patients as possible—including patients in countries with no access to rehabilitation medicine. “We wanted our solution to reach as far as it could to benefit more patients and medical systems,” he says. So they submitted their idea to the brain health challenge issued by Solve, an MIT initiative that brings together ideas and solutions from individuals and groups around the world focused on society’s most pressing challenges. AUGMENTx was accepted to the 2017 Solve class just as Kwon and his team were working on optimizing their prototype. Being part of Solve gave them greater exposure and access to the expertise and support of mentors and advisors, which helped them to improve their product and maximize its usefulness for clinics and hospitals.
Several hospitals and rehabilitation centers are now piloting their therapy platform to further improve and validate the technology.