Medical News: Klick Labs, a digital healthcare innovation lab, today introduced the SymPulse Tele-Empathy Device, a groundbreaking Proof of Concept that wirelessly records and transmits patient tremors in real time to help foster clinical empathy and better care for the more than 40 million people living with movement disorders in the U.S. alone. Today’s announcement underscores the innovation lab’s exploration of several applications and platforms to induce more empathy for patients across many disease states.
Unlike other inventions that attempt to replicate tremors via mechanical vibrations, Klick Labs’ SymPulseTM 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 patent-pending, experiential 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,” said Yan Fossat, VP, Klick Labs. “The SymPulseTM 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.”
Importance of Empathy
According to Dr. Jodi Halpern, Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley, “Skillful use of clinical empathy is essential for all three major aspects of effective medical care: accurate diagnosis, treatment adherence, and patient activation…We need innovative approaches to inculcate empathy in physicians, including exciting new interactive technologies that enable people to experience other people’s symptoms,” said Halpern, author of From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical Practice, (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Dr. Helen Riess, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Founder of Empathetics, Inc., said, “Improving clinical empathy should be at the forefront of institutional missions and interventions are needed to achieve these critical healthcare goals.” A randomized controlled trial led by Dr. Riess found that, initially, 53% of physicians reported declining levels of patient empathy for several years; whereas only 33% reported increasing levels. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in May 2012, also found that clinical empathy can be taught and can raise patient ratings of their healthcare.
Registered Physiotherapist Naomi Casiro believes symptom transmission offers benefits beyond just that of increased empathy. The Vancouver, BC-based clinician who only treats patients affected by Parkinson’s disease, said, “I can use my clinical expertise to analyze movement patterns and try to improve the patient’s capacity to perform daily motor tasks, such as buttoning a shirt or putting on a jacket. However, if I could combine these clinical skills with the experience of actually feeling how the patient moves, my ability to assess the movement challenges and problem-solve the solution would be amplified.”
Video: Man experiences identical twin brother’s Parkinson’s tremors for first time
As part of the device’s debut, video footage was released of 43-year-old early onset Parkinson’s patient Jim Smerdon wirelessly transmitting his tremors to his wife and identical twin brother Pat. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen my tremors in someone else,” Smerdon said. “I want everyone to be able to feel that…Nurses and neurosurgeons could experience (my tremors)…I think it will be a real game changer for them.”
To view the video, please go to klick.com/sympulse.
Future Uses: Other disease symptoms, telemedicine and more
Fossat said 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. As a result, Klick Labs is also exploring symptom transference for diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
With vast expertise creating Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for the healthcare industry, the company also 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 added.
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.
For more information on the SymPulseTM Tele-Empathy Device and Klick Labs’ expertise in tele-empathy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Klick Labs
Klick Labs is a digital innovation lab, established by Klick Health, to help life science organizations advance healthcare through the application of emerging concepts and technologies. Klick Labs offers a full range of innovation services, including primary research, ideation, design, prototyping and in-market validation under a Lab as a Service (LaaS) model. Klick Labs is distinguished by its mandate to bring true digital health innovation to market and ‘connect the dots’ between life science and technology industry leaders, disruptive start ups, medical researchers, healthcare professionals, and patients. Its unique approach is enabled through its trans-disciplinary team that includes creative technologists, data scientists, behavioral scientists, electrical engineers, application developers, experience designers, and medical experts. Key areas of focus include digital medicine and physiology, machine learning, mixed reality, natural language processing, and robotics.
Klick Health is one of the world’s largest independent health marketing and commercialization agencies. Klick is laser-focused on creating solutions that engage and educate healthcare providers about life-saving treatments and help inform and empower patients to manage their health and play a central role in their own care. Every solution hinges on Klick’s in-house expertise across the commercial universe—strategy, creative, analytics, instructional design, user experience, relationship marketing, social and mobile. Part of the Klick family of companies, the company was established in 1997 and has teams in Atlanta, Connecticut, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Toronto. Klick has been recognized for having one of the top 10 intranets in the world and has been consistently named a Great Place to Work, Best Workplace for Women, Best Employer, Fastest Growing Technology Company, and Best Managed Company. For more information on Klick Labs, go to Klick.com. Follow Klick on Twitter @KlickHealth.