Abilitech Medical: Assistive Solution for Upper-limb Neuromuscular Weakness

Abilitech Medical

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The healthcare industry has grown exponentially since the outbreak of the pandemic. Significant innovations have been introduced to address new solutions. Abilitech Medical is one such company that developed a suite of assistive devices that impact patients’ physical, emotional, and economic needs.

The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based medical device company creates assistive devices to restore functional independence to patients with upper-limb neuromuscular conditions or injuries. Abilitech develops devices that help people increase their ability to engage more fully in family or community activities, which in turn foster important social and emotional connections and restore a sense of independence—and enable users to move their limbs with ease and with improved function.

Transforming Lives

Angie Conley, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Abilitech Medical is an experienced Medtech leader. Her inspiration for Abilitech traces back to her previous role as executive director at Magic Arms—a nonprofit organization that created similar devices to help children affected by arthrogryposis use their arms.

During her tenure at Magic Arms, Angie received numerous inquiries from people asking about the functionality of these devices for multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, ALS, or spinal cord injury patients. However, due to a limited budget, Magic Arms was unable to develop a sustainable business and product that could scale to meet adult patients’ needs. Eventually, Angie leveraged her experience from the MedTech industry and Magic Arms to start Abilitech Medical in 2015—focused on transforming lives.

Abilitech Medical brings innovative solutions to the market that allow people living with upper-limb neuromuscular conditions to function independently. The company’s first product, the Abilitech Assist, is a one-of-a-kind powered orthotic device that provides functional assistance and support to both the elbow and the shoulder, to improve the lives of people in the U.S. affected by neuromuscular weakness. Currently, the device is the only assistive technological adaptation that empowers the movement of both the shoulder and the elbow.

A Multifaceted Leader

Presently, Abilitech Medical is in the initial stages of commercial deployment with a handful of customers. As the CEO, Angie manages the company on multiple fronts; while running the business and fundraising to provide future growth opportunities, she also plays a role in marketing, sales, and clinical studies. She is the face of the organization, responsible for raising awareness about the life-changing products that the company offers, along with building a best-in-class team to support future growth.

“I love telling stories of the impact we have on people who try on our device for the first time. It can be incredibly moving – there are often tears of joy from everyone -patients, their family, and caregivers – and many times from our team. These relationships often become personal and it can be incredibly rewarding. These moments fuel me and our team to drive excellence in the work we do. I personally enjoy the work in the field with patients and their clinical teams, raising awareness, and I’m constantly learning.” says Angie.

Under Angie’s leadership, Abilitech has won numerous awards including the ‘Tekne Award for Innovation’ from Minnesota High Tech Association and the largest Minnesota state-led business competition, the Minnesota Cup, for the ‘Top Woman-led Business.’ Recently, Conley was named as a regional finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award. In just under five years as the CEO, Angie has raised over $12 million in equity funding and nearly $2 million in non-dilutive grant funding.

Effective as a Team

Abilitech Medical is a growing team of passionate, highly engaged, and committed people who are united and driven to make a difference. The team is constantly learning and improving their device as a result of daily interaction with patients, caregivers, and clinicians. The team is inside homes and at hospitals daily to develop a deeper understanding of the patient and clinician needs and provide better solutions. “This is what differentiates Abilitech from technology that is developed in a research lab. We are building real-world solutions and learning and improving every week,” Conley continued.

Coping with the Pandemic

Abilitech Medical is a thought-driven company. When COVID-19 emerged as a global pandemic, the company was preparing to launch its first FDA-registered product, the ‘Assist.’ Regular access to clinicians and patients to provide in-person assessment and fittings for the device became extremely limited and, as a result, commercial operations were slowed.

Due to these restrictions, some of Abilitech Medical’s team was forced to work remotely from home, but most of the engineering team plugged away. In order to adapt to the changing environment, they pivoted to direct-to-consumer marketing using Facebook and Google ads and began virtual telehealth assessments to determine insurance and physical eligibility.

“An online assessment can be a very effective tool to meet a patient in the comfort of their own home. It saves time and helps us understand if our device is an appropriate solution.  This can also expedite the process of understanding insurance benefits and the eventual device delivery. There can be a lot of paperwork involved and work to coordinate and support insurance documentation. Getting a head start online has been helpful,” mentioned Angie.

Abilitech Medical’s clinical partners and sales team are spread throughout the U.S. They have constantly been working remotely helping the company commence its business expansion effectively.

Engrossing Opportunities

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the healthcare industry. Elective and preventative procedures and everyday visits to providers decreased significantly. Focus drastically shifted towards the care of COVID -infected patients and drug testing for vaccines. Due to the shortage of health workers, the pandemic further isolated people with disabilities. Their access to personal attendants and caregivers became extremely limited. This reinforced the need to restore independence for these patients and the need to support them in their home environment as opposed to a skilled nursing facility. The Assist can help support tasks of self-care, like brushing teeth, eating, using phones and computers, and many other daily activities that are vital during isolation.

Abilitech Medical is constantly working toward providing assistive devices to people who have upper-limb weakness in their arms. The Assist is the first in Abilitech’s future suite of products. The company aims to launch a powered handgrip device and a fully robotic and voice-controlled assistive device in the future. These products will take Abilitech Medical’s mission further—‘restoring independence to people with disabilities so they may become more independent in their home, community, and at work.

Abilitech Medical

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