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Walk with Path: Developing Wearables to Improve Mobility and Balance

By Mark Ogilbee posted 11-10-2022 10:11 PM

  

Based in London, Walk with Path is an AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant that develops wearables designed to improve function and mobility for seniors and for people living with chronic conditions — all with the goal of supporting independence and improving quality of life. 

Walk with Path's founder, Lise Pape, spoke with us about the company, its products and its vision for the future. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

 
 

Please tell us about Walk with Path. 

Our focus is on improving mobility. We started off focused on people with chronic diseases specifically, but aging is very linked to our ability to be mobile, and that’s become a big priority for us. 

The company was inspired by my personal situation with my father having Parkinson's disease. I saw the struggles he had with that, and how it caused falls and a lack of independence. This was a driving force for me, to see what I could do to find day-to-day life solutions that would improve people’s mobility and quality of life.  

 

You offer a pair of devices to assist with mobility. Can you give us an overview of those? 

We have a device called Path Finder for people with Parkinson's disease. It provides visual cues to help people overcome a symptom of Parkinson's called freezing of gait, which is one of the main causes for falls in people with Parkinson's.  

Path Finder works when you’re walking by shining a laser light that is projected in front of the traveling foot; the light acts as a stimulus to walk toward. The scientific term for this is “visual cueing.” It has been used for many years to treat Parkinson’s, often in rehabilitation clinics where, for instance, they have tape on the floor to act as cues. But with our laser light, you don’t have to change your environment to meet your needs; you can go out into any environment and use it. 

 

What’s the other device? 

We’re now focusing on a smart connected insole product that can improve balance. It’s aimed at a broader population; we have it in a clinical trial right now with people who have diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, which is a lack of sensation, and which makes someone 20 times more likely to suffer from a fall. Peripheral neuropathy is one of the main reasons that older people fall — because as you get older, you start losing some sensation in your feet, so you can’t feel the floor, and your balance becomes impaired. 

Our insole tracks how someone walks and can detect if their walking begins to deteriorate, which indicates they have an increased risk of falling. The insole also has a vibratory stimulus that’s sent to the foot; this improves walking and improves balance, which improves mobility, quality of life and independence, which is really what these tools are all about.

 

What’s your background that led you to founding Walk with Path? 

I have a bit of a mixed background. I first did human biology, which of course includes anatomy and neuroscience and things like this. After that, I got involved with innovation design engineering, which combines design and engineering into one discipline, as opposed to keeping them separate, which is often the way things are done. 

 

You’re based in London. How did you get involved with AARP, which has its primary focus on America? 

We took part in MassChallenge HealthTech, which is an accelerator program in Boston that AARP is also part of; AARP sponsored us for the program. So for about six months, we worked closely with AARP doing design research with users, focus groups and so on. 

Right now, we’re launching our diabetes product in the United States, and the market for us is a lot more interesting for various reasons, not least because of prevention: In this case, the diabetes product is supported by Medicare, which is not the case in Europe. 

I’m curious about some of the challenges you’ve encountered along the way, and how you have navigated those. 

Funding is always a big challenge for startups. In the beginning, I was a bit naive in thinking that if I could demonstrate patient benefits, then the health care system would pay, because we’re providing a quality-of-life improvement. But that’s not the case. Every health care system is driven by money, and I was not fully clued up on that when I started. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about Walk with Path? 

Lately, most of our work has been very diabetes-focused, because of the Medicare reimbursement. But we're trying to work out the best model for bringing mobility to more of the aging population. This has always been a big part of what we want to do. But we're trying to understand how willing people are to self-pay for such a product, because when it comes to aging and mobility, there’s not really reimbursement available for that. So we would like to do research and conduct interviews with individuals and focus groups. If there are testbeds who work with populations that would be interested in this, or caregiving facilities or other organizations in the Collaborative that would be interested in partnering in a pilot program with us, we’d love it if they got in touch. 

 

You can learn more about Walk with Path and find their contact information at their website. 

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