Future ALS, Cardiac Treatments From Existing Products - InformationWeek
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Future ALS, Cardiac Treatments From Existing Products

Researchers tap big data analytics and Internet of Things technologies to improve healthcare for people with neurodegenerative and cardiac diseases.

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Two independent proofs of concept, using currently available technologies, could one day reshape how providers care for cardiac patients and people with neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

While parties involved in these projects caution their work needs more time and research, the implications are exciting because both programs use existing products. The cardiac research leverages big data and analytics, while the ALS initiative incorporates wearable and Internet of Things devices.

Autonomy for ALS patients
Royal Philips and Accenture unveiled a proof of concept software on Tuesday that could give more autonomy to people with ALS or other neurodegenerative diseases. It works when a wearable display and Emotiv Insight Brainware, which measures electrical activity from brainwaves, connect to a tablet that enables people to use brain commands to control Philips products including Lifeline Medical Alert Service, SmartTV (with TP Vision), and Hue personal wireless lighting, according to the vendor. Users also can control the system via eye and voice commands, said Thibaut Sevestre, innovation lead for IT architecture and platforms at Philips, in an interview.

"We built an app that evolves with the disease of the patients, that learns multiple touches of impact," he said. "We came up with a very simplified menu structure that evolves depending on whether it's a tablet or wearable display and the type of input you're using."

[Learn more about how IT is helping treat diseases. See 10 Technologies Changing Diabetes Care.]

The mission was personal, Sevestre said. An employee at Philips' partner Accenture had a family member with ALS, and the two organizations set about seeking ways to empower patients to use technology to gain more control over their environments, he said. That lack of autonomy and loss of communication ability were some of the biggest concerns and hurdles ALS patients faced, the companies' research found.

"We cannot communicate with our loved ones. We cannot communicate with our friends, but we are very dependent on them at every level," Sevestre said of ALS patients. "We rely on people around us for all the simple things of every day, so what are the things we could regain control of so we could be a little more autonomous? We had the idea of building this concept, pulling together a lot of tools we have today."

The technology, which is based on open APIs, works in a lab setting with healthy testers, but that has to change before Philips and Accenture can expand usage to people with ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases, he said. Because it could be deemed a medical device, stringent testing is required, and Philips and Accenture are seeking partners within the patient, provider, payer, and other healthcare communities, said Sevestre.

(Source: Philips)
(Source: Philips)

Since components -- such as the headset and interactive TVs -- have been available for several years, Philips may have another option too, he said. The longtime developer of consumer-oriented products could leverage that experience if the product is not sold as a medical device.

"We'd like to gauge if there is a consumer track that is not healthcare regulated that could help speed up the development of the technology and the way of controlling devices that could help us very quickly gain speed, gain experience, [and] gain volume to make the entry level for the healthcare part lower in terms of cost and lower in terms of experimentation," said Sevestre. "Where is the sweet spot, [where] can we gain more experience faster so we can make that better for the patients?"

As Philips readily admits, the technology is in the early stages of development. Partnerships, research, and feedback will dictate the technology's direction and ultimate success.

The heart of cardiology
When Dr. Partho Sengupta, director of cardiac ultrasound research and associate professor of medicine in cardiology at the Mount Sinai Hospital, wanted to more accurately identify disease patterns from echocardiograms, he sought to use the many data attributes these tests show. He wanted

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Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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