Digital Health Company Develops Device that Simulates Parkinson’s Tremors for Doctors

April 24, 2017
A digital healthcare company is using experiential technology to recreate disease symptoms with the aim of putting physicians and caregivers in patients’ shoes.

A digital healthcare company is using experiential technology to recreate disease symptoms with the aim of putting physicians and caregivers in patients’ shoes.

The company, Klick Labs, part of Toronto, Canada-based health marketing firm Klick Health, developed a device, called the SymPulse Tele-Empathy Device, that wirelessly records and transmits patient tremors, such as Parkinson’s tremors, in real time. The company says the aim of developing the device is to foster clinical empathy and better care for more than 40 million people living with movement disorders in the U.S. alone.

The SymPulse Tele-Empathy Device records continuous electromyogram data from the patient and wirelessly transmits it via Bluetooth to a custom-engineered electrical muscle stimulation armband for non-patients. The device induces involuntary muscle activity, which mimics patient tremors in real time, and enables physicians and family members to experience the difficulties of seemingly simple tasks, such as buttoning a shirt or using a mobile phone.

“We are extremely encouraged about our work in technology-mediated symptom transference, which we call tele-empathy, to help make healthcare more patient-centric,” Yan Fossat, vice president, Klick Labs, said in a statement. “The SymPulse Tele-Empathy Device records and transmits patient tremors as data to give movement disorder physicians and caregivers a sense of what their patient or loved one is experiencing in real time.”

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, of the 10 million people living with the disease around the world, about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed each year, not including thousands of cases that go undetected. In 2005, the Foundation estimated that more than 40 million Americans (nearly one in seven people) were affected by a movement disorder, including tremor, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s syndrome, dystonia, and spasticity.

Fossat said in a press release that future versions, which use the Internet for remote transmission of symptoms, could be used for telemedicine. “We envision patients being able to transmit their tremors to physicians anywhere in the world to get more accurate diagnoses and better treatment,” he explained.

The implications of tele-empathy extend beyond the manipulation of muscle activity. Other types of disease and condition symptoms can be quantified and digitized using wearables with sensors that measure everything from the glucose level of someone’s tears to air flow and blood oxygen saturation levels, according to the company. As a result, Klick Labs is also exploring symptom transference for diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Klick Labs focuses on creating virtual reality (VR) experienced for the healthcare industry and believes VR can be used to create clinical empathy. “We can leverage VR to bypass proprioception and simulate a particular gait of a patient with diabetic neuropathy or multiple sclerosis and virtually put other people in that patient’s shoes,” Fossat said.

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