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September 26, 2016updated 13 Jan 2017 12:04pm

How the IoT and Big Data are being used in treating epilepsy

By Alexander Sword

The potential of the IoT and big data to transform healthcare is part of the big future promise of the two technologies, and a new pilot programme being used to help epilepsy patients in the UK could show the way.

epilepsy

Clinicians can receive constant feeds of information from patients.

Epilepsy shares characteristics with a small subset of other medical conditions: it is a chronic condition for which the main symptom, seizure, can onset almost at random.

The new programme, called myCareCentric Epilepsy features partners including Shearwater Systems, Graphnet Health, the University of Kent and Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, assembled in a public-private consortium called the Epilepsy Care Alliance.

It is backed by Innovate UK, the UK Government scheme that provides funding for innovative products and services.

Using advances in wearable technology, epilepsy sufferers can wear a Microsoft Band and feed information back to carers.

Microsoft Band

A Microsoft Band is used to collect patient data.

This includes information generated passively by the wearable, such as biological readings, and active information input by the patient themselves.

This is done through a self-reporting patient application, where they self-report symptoms and feelings before and after a seizure.

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A Microsoft Band wearable is used to feed more scientific information, such as heart rate, back to the clinicians.

According to Dr Ian Denley, Chairman of Graphnet, the Microsoft Band has performed “very well” compared to medical equipment.

The method creates a blend of information that consists both of standardised data points and subjective impressions recorded by patients: feeling ‘woozy’ might be an example.

The standardised data points will be used as part of a ‘Big Data’ approach, says Denley.

“Patients consent as they join the study for data to be used in clinical research.”

The goal is to chart the difference between seizures against a baseline of normal medical activity, which can only be measured on a constant basis.

Crucially, both the baseline and the seizures themselves will be different for each patient, meaning that this individual monitoring is required.

For the first time, the solution integrates information from electronic devices with a patient’s clinical record.  The enhanced record can then be shared in real-time with patients and their doctors.

Clinicians can access the information in a single dashboard view, while the patients can communicate directly with them through a patient portal.

The solution is called myCareCentric Epilepsy.

The solution is called myCareCentric Epilepsy.

As well as collecting information, the solution incorporates machine learning to use this information to detect when a patient is experiencing a seizure. If alone, for example, there may be nobody around to report the seizure and contact emergency services, which the myCareCentric Epilepsy can help with.

In the words of patient Sean Hamilton:

“The one key thing for me is about being able to have a safety net and a support system so I can actually regain my independence. What tends to happen now, particularly if I am out on my own, is that I end up back in an ambulance or in A&E. I hope to get better control of my seizures and ideally to get the life back that I used to have”.

Microsoft

The solution includes a user-friendly portal.

Unfortunately, Denley explains, the prospect of this or any solution being able to predict seizures is remote, despite the fact that nature already has produced a solution to this problem: dogs are inexplicably able to detect oncoming seizures.

Further enhancements of the solution will integrate new streams of data.

For example, family and friends of the patient may in future be able to add in their own data, including video and audio recordings of the patients.

Denley is also optimistic that the solution could be applied to other long-term conditions, including migraine, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.

What is clear is that technology will play an increasingly large role in healthcare in the future.

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