Mike Sanders

How Digital Health is changing spinal care devices and adoption

Digital Health and Spinal Care devices . A stethoscope rests on top of a MRI image of a human spine. Photo credit: canstockphoto9427580

Digital Health and Spinal Care. A stethoscope rests on top of a MRI image of a human spine.

Lately I have had the opportunity to watch VibeDX and Dorn Systems develop technologies in spinal care devices. They highlight the future of digital health, as these innovations will further accelerate how digital information is shared in the healthcare network.

Most medical device companies know that digital health will change medical care, but the future is not yet clear for their product plans. Digital health will change the way medical devices mature and are adopted. This blog connects the dots between new chronic spinal care evaluation tools, surgical devices and how digital health changes adoption.

Lower back pain and the related treatments are chronic and pervasive. Evolution blessed us with big cognitive abilities. But as we took our hands off the ground to build tools, we inherited the downside of sub-optimal spinal mechanics. Most adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. Back issues are often cited as the most common cause of job-related disability. Not surprisingly, there is a host of causes and treatments.

Diagnosis and care plan management are very tricky for both the practitioner and patient. In fact there is no accepted definition of what recovery involves or guidance as to how recovery should be measured. Consequently it is critical that data-centric evidence based medicine is practiced, so that care plans are targeted and managed to maintain spinal health.

Personal health information is growing exponentially as personal and medical devices share more and more data online. Harnessing this data can have profound effects on the medical outcomes and product value.

VibeDX is taking evidence in spinal mechanics to the next level. They have patented a way to identify injuries, pathologies and fitness level of the back and spine, through a series of gentle vibrations applied to the surface of the back. The vertebral movements are recorded in a time-series and used to analyze overall mobility and flexibility.

Like many digital health applications, VibeDx creates a lot of data, and does a lot of data processing. The long terms benefits are substantial. Data sets will increase with the number of patients and the number of measurements on the same individual over time. Baseline and control data can be updated to provide better results and clarity on the assessments. Individual assessments will improve based on larger population data, trends over time and associations with other events that can be used as input to care management. Such well understood, curated longitudinal data sets will become significant assets for use in future studies. When incorporated with other sources, the data will help drive business and clinical decisions.

Back surgery is a clinical decision that will be improved with Digital Health data. In 2012 spinal fusion was cited as the fifth most frequent operating room procedure in the US, though it is only recommended with evidence of worsening nerve damage and structural changes. With deeper information on the patient and their condition, selecting the right approach and treatment (as well as monitoring the overall care plan) can be achieved.

A device that can benefit from evidence based treatment plans is the new spinal fusion Mattis Cage from Dorn Systems. The Posterior and Transverse Lumbar Interbody Fusion Devices (PLIF/TLIF) overcome many of the deficiencies of current fusion cages, making surgery easier and safer. Sharing diagnostic and follow-up evaluation data will change how such innovations are adopted. Information will accelerate adoption by demonstrating effective treatment and improvements compared to other devices, and identifying where the new devices are best applied.

As the medical community innovates and creates better tools for spinal health, digital health will play an essential role: connecting the right people to the right data. Imagine having accurate information on spinal mechanics, as well as deep post-market surveillance of spinal devices to manage care. Such personalized medicine will accelerate medical device applications as new products are supported with deeper and more targeted evidence.

In the long term, data from other records such as personal health tracking, medical records and imaging can be incorporated and reprocessed within a patient’s care network. Such a broad level of information better supports the complex decisions on treatment paths.

Image: 9427580 © joebelanger / Dreamstime.com

Mike Sanders is a StarFish Medical Software Engineering Project Manager. He is writing a digital health blog series on topics including mobile and cloud privacy, security and cyber threats.

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