Physiotherapy students' perspectives on the use and implementation of exoskeletons as a rehabilitative technology in clinical settings

Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2022 Oct;17(7):840-847. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2020.1818139. Epub 2020 Sep 15.


Purpose: Wearable lower body robotic exoskeletons are an emerging technology used in gait rehabilitation to facilitate task-specific overground walking. Despite their proposed utility as a rehabilitation intervention, exoskeletons have not been widely implemented into clinical practice by physiotherapists. This study aims to inform future development of exoskeleton technology through the exploration of physiotherapy student perspectives on the use of the H2 robotic exoskeleton and the implementation of exoskeletons as a therapeutic technology in neurological gait rehabilitation.

Methods: A qualitative descriptive study, including fifteen physiotherapy students, was conducted using three equally sized focus groups. A collaborative data analysis process was employed using the DEPICT model.

Results: Five themes were identified during data analysis: developing evidence-informed practice, clinical considerations for exoskeleton use, resource demands, device-specific challenges for implementation, and future development. The results suggest there are several barriers limiting novel clinicians' future use of exoskeletons.

Conclusion: This study highlights current challenges surrounding exoskeleton implementation into clinical practice and provides direction for future exoskeleton development.Implications for rehabilitationPhysiotherapy students view exoskeletons as a potentially valuable rehabilitation tool once perceived limitations are addressed.This study encourages collaboration between physiotherapists and biomedical engineers for future exoskeleton development.More research is needed to inform treatment parameters and appropriate client criteria to guide exoskeleton use for gait rehabilitation.

Keywords: Exoskeleton; H2; gait; neurological; physiotherapy; rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Exoskeleton Device*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic*
  • Humans
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Students
  • Technology