Pediatric epileptologist, Dr. Dave Clarke, is willing to navigate the promises and perils of telehealth in the name of delivering better diagnosis and management of epilepsy in children.
Science fiction often foretells both exciting and sometimes dystopian advances in technology that someday may become part of our everyday reality. From cell phones to smartwatches and from virtual reality headsets to self-driving cars, things that once seemed like pure fantasy are fast becoming seamless parts of our lives.
To create a user-friendly, comfortable monitoring device that can provide a highly accurate and reliable early warning system for caregivers of epilepsy patients.
The EFR32BG22 was chosen for Project Epidet because it’s a single-chip solution that brings together Bluetooth connectivity, ultra-low power consumption, and compact size for secure, reliable monitoring.
Project Epidet benefits everyone involved in epilepsy care - the patient, families, and the healthcare provider by being accurate and providing peace of mind that oncoming seizures can be identified in time to intervene if necessary.
Today’s portable medical devices offer continuous monitoring, real-time alerts, machine learning (ML) analysis, and cloud connectivity to a virtual or remote physician available for immediate assistance. With continued advances in so many areas of medicine offering instant feedback, including real-time telehealth services, there is one global disease in particular for which new innovations offer exciting breakthrough opportunities to change the lives of so many. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy; nearly 80 percent of them live in low- and middle-income countries. Additionally, an estimated 70 percent of people with epilepsy could be seizure free if properly diagnosed and treated. Given the latest advances in embedded IoT devices, what can we do about this problem?
Wireless Epilepsy Monitoring
Dr. Clarke has seen firsthand the hurtful consequences of uncontrolled or insufficiently monitored epilepsy.
“There are conditions like infantile spasms that should be considered a medical emergency, but that often go missed for months," Dr. Clarke says. "They need to be treated immediately or they can be devastating. If you could better define what may be a seizure or another type of movement in a safe and effective way, it would be helpful to everyone in medical management.”
Dr. Clarke has inaugurated Project Epidet with the focus on developing a device that can provide an early warning system for caregivers of epilepsy patients. Noble as the ambition is, Dr. Clarke is deeply aware of the level of complexity when it comes to the immediate detection and prediction of an epilepsy-related seizure.
Part of the problem, according to Dr. Clarke, is that there are many different types of seizures, including focal seizures that begin in one area of the brain but can spread. There are also tonic-clonic seizures that involve loss of consciousness and generalized muscle contractions. Absence seizures cause a patient to blank out or stare into space for a few seconds. Myoclonic seizures cause brief, jerking spasms of a muscle or a muscle group. Tonic seizures are characterized by sudden stiffness or tension in the muscles of the arms, legs or trunk, and atonic seizures cause sudden loss of muscle strength. A device that monitors generalized tonic-clonic seizures, which involves overall generalized movement, may not monitor more subtle movements that characterize different types of seizure. There are a few FDA technologies that monitor movement and may be sufficiently sensitive, and research is ongoing to find other ways, but they aren’t approved quite yet.
Another challenge is that when moving a product from the realm of health wearables ‘for entertainment only’ into medical monitoring, the FDA requires evidence of efficacy and safety. The complexity for achieving this goes up by an order of magnitude, which is one of the reasons why so few companies are pursuing portable medical devices. But Dr. Clarke is undeterred because seizures can, and should, be controlled. For About 70 percent of people living with epilepsy, anti-seizure medication offers a path to becoming seizure free. For the other 30 percent of patients that can’t be helped with medication, seizure prediction is vital and creates the opportunity to improve their lives.