Vendors Give Patients Control with Smartphone Apps

by Jo Jo Platt, contributing editor and James Cavuoto, editor

July 2020 issue

Vendors of implanted neuromodulation systems have turned increasingly to new smartphone apps to enable patients to exert more control over their therapeutic regimens. The apps also offer clinicians an increased opportunity for remote medicine at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has made office visits less tenable.

Last year, Boston Scientific introduced the mySCS app, a patient education tool that also allows patients to provide feedback to clinicians during a stimulation trial. The app produces a detailed trial summary report that helps increase the chances of a successful permanent implant. At NANS 2020, the company reported that mySCS improved trial success rate from 85 to 91 percent.

Earlier this month, Abbott announced that the FDA approved their iOS patient controller app to allow patients and physicians the ability to customize treatment remotely and without having to carry an additional device dedicated to managing a patient’s implanted device. The new app is compatible with the company’s Infinity DBS system, Proclaim XR SCS system, and Proclaim DRG neurostimulation system. Patients will no longer have to carry, charge, and manage a separate controller. Moving to a ubiquitous platform such as a smartphone also allows patients who are sensitive or feel a stigma around using the separate controller in public to discretely adjust their therapies.

The new app is currently approved only for iOS devices; approximately 65 percent of patients implanted with Abbott stimulators already use smartphones. Integration with Android and other digital platforms such as Alexa are also in development.

The smartphone app approach is a part of Abbott’s NeuroSphere Digital Care platform that was launched earlier this year. The new app will allow patients to control what program they are on and will provide the ability to adjust settings. Complex adjustments will still be done by a physician, but multiple programming options will be available to the patient through the app. This is especially useful for different activities or environmental changes, such as time of day. Think of it as a music playlist to suit your mood or changes in the patient’s condition.

Abbott has devoted considerable resources to positioning itself as the patient-centric solution for neuromodulation. “Now, more than ever, getting patients connected is essential,” said Keith Boettiger, president, Abbott Neuromodulation. “Over 75 percent of Americans’ healthcare was disrupted in the past few months. There’s a much greater demand for personalized therapy experience through digital connections. Digital has been critical in our long-term strategy. We’re working to make digital and remote options available to better connect providers and patients. That’s true across all of our therapies. It has never been more apparent than right now during this COVID-19 pandemic that you have to be connected to your patients and to manage your patients remotely. We feel like we’re the best technological platform in neuromodulation to accomplish those goals.”

Part of the backend benefit of the app will be a more detailed understanding of how patients use the program. Data points such as how frequently the device is in use or how often a patient changes settings like amplitude will allow Abbott to develop new products that are more patient-centric based upon actual patient usage. Boettiger stated that Abbott’s goal is to have therapies that help patients with chronic disease to have solutions that seamlessly improve their lives.

There have been several high-profile hacks including wearables; Garmin recently confirmed a $10 million ransomware hack. “Companies need to demonstrate that they can truly secure commercial products,” stated Rob Barnes, a security architect and founder of Trusterity Information Security Services. “Otherwise, customer trust in these devices will erode, jeopardizing the entire commercial medical device industry,” he concluded.

In an interview with NBR, Boettiger said that considerable time and investment was expended on the security aspects of the project. “Security is one of the more important things to us, he said.”

Abbott’s Patient Controller app will be available in the Apple App Store beginning in the coming weeks.


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