Hospital offers remote relief with new technology

Mercy Health St. Mary’s is offering remote treatment for patients suffering from chronic pain or movement disorders.

Abbot NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic technology provides remote communications between patient and provider and enables settings adjustments while ensuring proper functionality of surgically implanted deep brain stimulation technology.

“Much like telemedicine added a new layer of convenience and improvement in being able to care for our patients, this just takes that telemedicine one step further in improving our patient care experience for those with movement disorders like Parkinson’s or tremors,” said Dr. Danette Taylor, medical director of the movement disorders program at Mercy Health Hauenstein Neuroscience Center. “We’re excited about the possibility for those who felt driving from a long distance would not be an option, or if they are anxious about COVID-19. Patients are hearing about this and recognizing that this may be a realistic opportunity for them.”

The deep brain stimulation devices are implanted at the time of surgery and are adjusted as needed at a later appointment with the patient’s neurologist. After this initial set up, the doctor can send changes to the device’s app, which patients can access from their iOS smartphone or Apple iPod touch mobile device.

“The patients can see and talk to their doctors, and the physician can make meaningful programming changes while the patient is in their living room,” said Donnemarie Rockwell, senior territory manager for Abbott Deep Brain Stimulation. “Physicians can see the patients’ stiffness, rigidity, can watch them walk, etc. Some tests doctors may do in person, like having the patient take a drink of water after an adjustment, can still be assessed through the app. It’s as easy as doing an update on your phone.”

Paul Bailey, who suffers from tremors and is the first patient of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s to be treated with the technology, said the program is simple to use.

“I was really impressed with the whole thing. It was great. I tell my story to my friends and neighbors, and they’re fascinated that I can log onto an iPod, connect with my doctor, and then she can make adjustments right then and there.”

The system currently is offered by 500 clinicians nationwide, with 92 hospitals offering the service to approximately 1,300 people. Neurologists hope to expand the technology to even more patients, offering relief to those who live in rural communities, are concerned about driving in inclement weather or may want to avoid public spaces due to COVID precautions.

For patients like Bailey and his wife, Lynn, who enjoy leaving Grand Rapids to visit their cottage in the summer, the programming offers effective treatment without the commute to town.

“Dr. Taylor called me for my first adjustment when we were camping. She said I’m going to adjust the device right now,” Bailey said. “She asked if I could feel it tingling, and I said I could, and then I heard applause in the background. She said people from the Hauenstein neurology team and Abbott were there to see how it worked. She said, ‘You’re the first we’ve ever done this to.’ I didn’t realize the importance of it, but I can tell you it has been life-changing for me.”

More information about the Abbot NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s can be found at mercyhealth.com/dbs.

Marcy Willis

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