DiversityNursing Blog

Innovations: Testing A Digital Pillbox To Improve Medication Compliance

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 03:10 PM

By Darius Tahir

www.modernhealthcare.com 

Digital pillbox.jpg&q=40&maxw=600&maxh=600 resized 600In the fall of 2012, Nick Valilis was diagnosed with leukemia just as he was starting medical school. In treatment he found it difficult to remember to take his medications at the proper time and in the right order.

“He struggled handling the sheer complexity,” said Rahul Jain, Valilis' classmate at Duke University. “He went from no meds to 10 meds a day. How is an 85-year-old cancer patient supposed to handle that same regimen?” 

Since then, Jain, Valilis and a few other Duke classmates have formed a startup company called TowerView Health with the goal of making it easier for patients to manage their medication regimens. Jain is CEO of the company, which was incorporated last year; Valilis is chief medical officer. They are about to launch a clinical trial, in partnership with Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, to test whether their technological solution helps patients understand and comply with their drug regimens.

That could be an important innovation. Poor medication adherence is estimated to cause as much as $290 billion a year in higher U.S. medical costs, as well as a big chunk of medication-related hospital admissions.

TowerView has developed software and hardware that reminds patients and their clinicians about medication schedules, and warns them when a patient is falling off track.

Dr. Ron Brooks, senior medical director for clinical services at Independence Blue Cross, said he thinks TowerView's solution is a notable improvement over previous medication-adherence technology. “Most of the apps I've seen are reminder apps,” he said. “It might remind you to take a medication, but you have to input that you actually take it. There's no closing of the loop.” By contrast, TowerView automatically provides reminders and tracking, with the opportunity for clinician follow-up.  

Here's how TowerView's system works. When clinicians prescribe drugs and develop a medications schedule for a patient, the scrips and schedule are sent to a mail-order pharmacy that has partnered with TowerView. The pharmacy splits the medications into the scheduled dosages on a prescription-drug tray. The tray is labeled with the schedule and sent to the patient, who places the tray into an electronic pillbox, which senses when pills are taken out of each tray compartment. 

The pillbox sensors communicate with connected software through a cellular radio when patients have taken their pills and when it's time to remind them—either through a text message, phone call or the pillbox lighting up—that they've missed a dose. The system also compiles information for providers about the patient's history of missed doses, enabling the provider to personally follow up with the patient.

But some question whether tech solutions are the most effective way to improve medication adherence. A 2013 literature review in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association identified nearly 160 medication-adherence apps and found poor-quality research evidence supporting their use.

Experts say it's not clear whether apps and devices can address the underlying reasons why patients don't comply with their drug regimens. For instance, patients simply might not like taking their drugs because of side effects or other issues. “I'd wager that improved adherence—and a range of other health benefits—are ultimately more likely to be achieved not by clever apps and wireless gadgets, but rather by an empathetic physician who understands, listens and is trusted by her patients,” Dr. David Shaywitz, chief medical officer at DNAnexus, a network for sharing genomic data, recently wrote.

Jain doesn't disagree. He notes that his firm's system empowers empathetic clinicians to provide better care. “This solution allows more of a communication element,” he said. “We'll be able to understand why patients don't take their meds.” 

That system soon will be put to the test in a randomized clinical trial. TowerView and Independence Blue Cross are enrolling 150 diabetic patients who are noncompliant with their medication regimens; half of those participants will receive usual care. The goal is to improve compliance by at least 10% over six months.

If it works, Jain and his company hope to sell the product to insurers and integrated healthcare providers working under risk-based contracts. The idea is that patients' improved adherence will reduce providers' hospitalization and other costs and boost their financial performance.

Topics: pills, software, technology, health, healthcare, medication, medical, patients, medicine, patient, treatment, digital pillbox

IdentRx Promises to Prevent Nearly All Medication Errors

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 29, 2015 @ 11:08 AM

www.medgadget.com 

describe the imageMedication errors continue to plague the clinical community and even rare cases of mistakes can make a big splash in the news. And for a good reason: we all expect to be treated than harmed when receiving medical care. A new device is currently in the third round of pilot testing, including at major retail pharmacies and Purdue University, that may help avoid prescription errors altogether. The IdentRx system from PerceptiMed, a Mountain View, California firm, optically analyzes every single pill that will be given to a patient to make sure it precisely matches each prescription.

It is the only device that visually inspects each pill, recognizing the manufacturer imprints on them all. The system confirms that the pills themselves, and not only the container bottles, match the issued prescriptions, hopefully preventing errors just before the pills are handed to the patients.

Topics: medical technology, prescription, medication errors, technology, health, healthcare, medication, medical, patients, medicine, patient

30-year-old Russian Man Volunteers For World's First Human Head Transplant

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 15, 2015 @ 02:29 PM

Written by Honor Whiteman

www.medicalnewstoday.com 

brain and spinal cord resized 600In February, Medical News Today reported that an Italian surgeon is to announce updated plans to conduct the world's first human head transplant within the next 2 years. Now, a 30-year-old Russian man is set to become the first person to undergo the procedure.

Dr. Sergio Canavero, of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group (TANG) in Italy, first spoke of his plans to carry out the first human head transplantation in July 2013 - a project named HEAVEN-GEMINI.

At the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons' 39th Annual Conference in Annapolis, MD, in June, Dr. Canavero will present updated plans for the project, addressing some of the previously identified challenges that come with it.

Though researchers have seriously questioned the feasibility of Dr. Canavero's plans, it seems the first human head transplantation is a step closer to becoming a reality; Valery Spiridonov, a 30-year-old computer scientist from Vladimir, Russia, is the first person to volunteer for the procedure.

Spiridonov has Werdnig-Hoffman disease - a rare genetic muscle wasting condition, also referred to as type 1 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The condition is caused by the loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and the brain region connected to the spinal cord. Individuals with the disease are unable to walk and are often unable to sit unaided.

Spiridonov was diagnosed with Werdnig-Hoffman disease at the age of 1 and told MailOnline that he volunteered for HEAVEN-GEMINI because he wants the chance of a new body before he dies.

'"I can hardly control my body now," he said. "I need help every day, every minute. I am now 30 years old, although people rarely live to more than 20 with this disease."

Donor body will be attached to recipient's head through spinal cord fusion

Dr. Canavero told CNN he has received an array of emails and letters from people asking to be considered for the procedure, many of which have been from transgender individuals seeking a new body. However, the surgeon says the first people to undergo the procedure will be those with muscle wasting conditions like Spiridonov.

The procedure - which is estimated to take 100 surgeons around 36 hours to complete - will involve spinal cord fusion (SCF). The head from a donor body will be removed using an "ultra-sharp blade" in order to limit the amount of damage the spinal cord sustains.

"The key to SCF is a sharp severance of the cords themselves," Dr. Canavero explains in a paper published earlier this year, "with its attendant minimal damage to both the axons in the white matter and the neurons in the gray laminae. This is a key point."

The spinal cord of the donor body will then be fused with the spinal cord of the recipient's head. Chemicals called polyethylene glycol or chitosan can be used to encourage SCF, according to Dr. Canavero. The muscles and blood supply will then be sutured.

The recipient will be kept in a coma for around 3-4 weeks, says Dr. Canavero, during which time the spinal cord will be subject to electrical stimulation via implanted electrodes in order to boost the new nerve connections. 

The surgeon estimates that - with the help of physical therapy - the patient would be able to walk within 1 year.

Spiridonov admits he is worried about undergoing the procedure. "Am I afraid? Yes, of course I am," he told MailOnline. "But it is not just very scary, but also very interesting."

"You have to understand that I don't really have many choices," he added. "If I don't try this chance my fate will be very sad. With every year my state is getting worse."

Spiridonov talks more about his decision to participate in HEAVEN-GEMINI in the video below:

Dr. Canavero branded 'nuts'

Dr. Canavero has previously admitted there are two major challenges with HEAVEN-GEMINI: reconnecting the severed spinal cord, and stopping the immune system from rejecting the head. But he claims that recent animal studies have shown the procedure is "feasible."

Unsurprisingly, however, researchers worldwide are highly skeptical of the proposal. Talking to CNN, Arthur Caplan, PhD, director of medical ethics and NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, NY, even called Dr. Canavero "nuts."

Caplan said the procedure needs to be conducted many more times on animals before it is applied to humans, adding that if the technique is feasible then Dr. Canavero should be trying to help paralyzed patients before attempting whole body transplants. 

And talking to New Scientist earlier this year, Harry Goldsmith, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at the University of California-Davis, said the project is so "overwhelming" that it is the chances of it going ahead are unlikely.

"I don't believe it will ever work," he added, "there are too many problems with the procedure. Trying to keep someone healthy in a coma for 4 weeks - it's not going to happen."

Spiridonov says he is well aware of the risks, though he is still willing to take a chance on Dr. Canavero. 

"He's a very experienced neurosurgeon and has conducted many serious operations. Of course he has never done anything like this and we have to think carefully through all the possible risks," he told MailOnline, but adds that "if you want something to be done, you need to participate in it."

Though it not been confirmed when the procedure will be performed, Spiridonov says it could be as early as next year.

Topics: technology, health, healthcare, medical, hospital, head transplant, surgeon, humna

Doctors Test Tumor Paint In People

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 08, 2015 @ 12:03 PM

JOE PALCA

www.npr.org 

glowing vial wide eec83b26dc18b2e1a1c559733c0e90c07dcf839b s800 c85 resized 600A promising technique for making brain tumors glow so they'll be easier for surgeons to remove is now being tested in cancer patients.

Eighteen months ago, Shots first told readers about tumor paint, an experimental substance derived from scorpion venom. Inject tumor paint into a patient's vein, and it will actually cross the blood-brain barrier and find its way to a brain tumor. Shine near-infrared light on a tumor coated with tumor paint, and the tumor will glow.

The main architect of the tumor paint idea is a pediatric oncologist named Dr. Jim Olson. As a physician who treats kids with brain cancer, Olson knows that removing a tumor is tricky.

"The surgeons right now use their eyes and their fingers and their thumbs to distinguish cancer from normal brain," says Olson. But poking around in someone's brain with only those tools, it's inevitable surgeons will sometimes miss bits of tumor or, just as bad, damage healthy brain cells.

So Olson and his colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle came up with tumor paint. They handed off commercial development of the compound to Blaze Bioscience.

After initial studies in dogs showed promise, the company won approval to try tumor paint on human subjects. Those trials are taking place at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Dr. Chirag Patil is one of those surgeons. He says it's remarkable that you can inject tumor paint into a vein in a patient's arm, have it go to the brain and attach to a tumor, and only a tumor. "That's a concept that neurosurgeons have probably been dreaming about for 50 years," he says.

Patil says they've now used tumor paint on a about a half dozen patients with brain tumors. They use a special camera to see if the tumor is glowing.

"The first case we did was a deep tumor," says Patil. "So with the camera, we couldn't really shine it into this deep small cavity. But when we took that first piece out and we put it on the table. And the question was, 'Does it glow?' And when we saw that it glows, it was just one of those moments ...'Wow, this works.' "

In this first study of tumor paint in humans, the goal is just to prove that it's reaching the tumor. Future studies will see if it actually helps surgeons remove tumors and, even more importantly, if it results in a better outcome for the patient.

That won't be quick or easy. Just getting to this point has been a long slog, and there are bound to be hurdles ahead.

And even if tumor paint does exactly what it's designed to do, Dr. Keith Black, who directs neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai, says it probably isn't the long-term solution to brain cancer. "Because surgery is still a very crude technique," he says.

Even in the best of circumstances, Black says, surgery is traumatic for the patients, and tracking down every last cell of a tumor is probably impossible. Plus, it's inevitable that some healthy brain tissue will be damaged in removing the tumor.

"Ultimately, we want to eliminate the need to do surgery," says Black. A start in that direction will be to use a compound like tumor paint to deliver not just a dye, but an anti-cancer drug directly to a tumor. That's a goal several research groups, including Jim Olson's, are working on.

Topics: surgery, surgeons, technology, health, healthcare, doctors, cancer, hospital, tumor, glow paint, operating

5 Reasons Radiation Treatment has Never Been Safer (Op-Ed)

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 01:40 PM

Dr. Edward Soffen

Source: www.livescience.com

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Dr. Edward Soffen is a board-certified radiation oncologist and medical director of the Radiation Oncology Department at CentraState Medical Center's Statesir Cancer Center in Freehold, New Jersey. He contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

As a radiation oncologist, my goal is to use radiation as an extremely powerful and potent tool to eradicate cancer tumors in the body: These techniques save and extend patients' lives every day. 

Historically, radiation treatments have been challenged by the damage they cause healthy tissue surrounding a tumor, but new technologies are now slashing those risks.

How radiation therapies work

High-energy radiation kills cancer cells by damaging DNA so severely that the diseased cells die. Radiation treatments may come from a machine (x-ray or proton beam), radioactive material placed in the body near tumor cells, or from a fluid injected into the bloodstream. A patient may receive radiation therapy before or after surgery and/or chemotherapy, depending on the type, location and stage of the cancer. 

Today's treatment options target radiation more directly to a tumor — quickly, and less invasively — shortening overall radiation treatment times. And using new Internet-enabled tools, physicians across the country can collaborate by sharing millions of calculations and detailed algorithms for customizing the best treatment protocols for each patient. With just a few computer key strokes, complicated treatment plans can be anonymously shared with other physicians at remote sites who have expertise in a particular oncologic area. Through this collaboration, doctors offer their input and suggestions for optimizing treatment. In turn, the patient benefits from a wide community of physicians who share expertise based upon their research, clinical expertise and first-hand experience. 

The result is safer, more effective treatments. Here are five of the most exciting examples:

1. Turning breast cancer upside down

When the breast is treated while the patient is lying face down, with radiation away from the heart and lungs, a recent study found an 86 percent reduction in the amount of lung tissue irradiated in the right breast and a 91 percent reduction in the left breast. Additionally, administering prone-position radiation therapy in this fashion does not inhibit the effectiveness of the treatment in any way.

2. Spacer gel for prostate cancer

Prostate cancer treatment involves delivering a dose of radiation to the prostate that will destroy the tumor cells, but not adversely affect the patient. A new hydrogel, a semi-solid natural substance, will soon be used to decrease toxicity from radiation beams to the nearby rectum. The absorbable gel is injected by a syringe between the prostate and the rectum which pushes the rectum out of the way while treating the prostate. As a result, there is much less radiation inadvertently administered to the rectum through collateral damage. This can significantly improve a patient's daily quality of life — bowel function is much less likely to be affected by scar tissue or ulceration. [Facts About Prostate Cancer (Infographic )]

3. Continual imaging improves precision

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) uses specialized computer software to take continual images of a tumor before and during radiation treatment, which improves the precision and accuracy of the therapy. A tumor can move day by day or shrink during treatment. Tracking a tumor's position in the body each day allows for more accurate targeting and a narrower margin of error when focusing the beam. It is particularly beneficial in the treatment of tumors that are likely to move during treatment, such as those in the lung, and for breast, gastrointestinal, head and neck and prostate cancer. 

In fact, the prostate can move a few millimeters each day depending on the amount of fluid in the bladder and stool or gas in the rectum. Head and neck cancers can shrink significantly during treatment, allowing for the possibility of adaptive planning (changing the beams during treatment), again to minimize long term toxicity and side effects.

4. Lung, liver and spine cancers can now require fewer treatments 

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) offers a newer approach to difficult-to-treat cancers located in the lung, liver and spine. It is a concentrated, high-dose form of radiation that can be delivered very quickly with fewer sessions. Conventional treatment requires 30 radiation treatments daily for about six weeks, compared to SBRT which requires about three to five treatments over the course of only one week. The cancer is treated from a 3D perspective in multiple angles and planes, rather than a few points of contact, so the tumor receives a large dose of radiation, but normal tissue receives much less. By attacking the tumor from many different angles, the dose delivered to the normal tissue (in the path of any one beam) is quite minimal, but when added together from a multitude of beams coming from many different planes, all intersecting inside the tumor, the cancer can be annihilated. 

5. Better access to hard-to-reach tumors

Proton-beam therapy is a type of radiation treatment that uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer. Protons, however, can target the tumor with lower radiation doses to surrounding normal tissues, depending on the location of the tumor. It has been especially effective for replacing surgery in difficult-to-reach areas, treating tumors that don't respond to chemotherapy, or situations where photon-beam therapy will cause too much collateral damage to surrounding tissue. Simply put, the proton (unlike an x-ray) can stop right in the tumor target and give off all its energy without continuing through the rest of the body. One of the more common uses is to treat prostate cancer. Proton therapy is also a good choice for small tumors in areas which are difficult to pinpoint — like the base of the brain — without affecting critical nerves like those for vision or hearing. Perhaps the most exciting application for this treatment approach is with children. Since children are growing and their tissues are rapidly dividing, proton beam radiation has great potential to limit toxicity for those patients. Children who receive protons will be able to maintain more normal neurocognitive function, preserve lung function, cardiac function and fertility. 

While cancer will strike more than 1.6 million Americans in 2015, treatments like these are boosting survival rates. In January 2014, there were nearly 14.5 million American cancer survivors. By January 2024, that number is expected to increase to nearly 19 million

But make no mistake — radiation therapy, one of the most powerful resources used to defeat cancer, is not done yet. As we speak, treatment developments in molecular biology, imaging technology and newer delivery techniques are in the works, and will continue to provide cancer patients with even less invasive treatment down the road.

Source: www.livescience.com

Topics: surgery, physician, innovation, oncology, technology, health, healthcare, nurse, medical, cancer, patients, hospital, medicine, treatments, radiation, chemotherapy, doctor, certified oncologist, oncologist, x-ray

New York City To Teens: TXT ME With Mental Health Worries

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 09:56 AM

MAANVI SINGH

Source: www.npr.org

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The majority of teenagers with mental health issues don't get help. But maybe if help were just a text message away — they wouldn't be so hesitant to reach out.

That's the thinking behind NYC Teen Text, a pilot program at 10 New York public high schools that allows teens to get help with mental health issues by text.

Chiara de Blasio, the 20-year-old daughter of Mayor Bill de Blasio who has been vocal about her own struggles with depression and substance abuse, helped launched the program. "I know from personal experience that reaching out when you're in pain can be the turning point – the first step on the road to recovery," she said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The initiative is managed by the city's health department in collaboration with the Mental Health Association of New York City, which already runs a citywide crisis phone service.

"Teens can be more candid on text than even in a phone conversation or in person," says John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which helped design the Teen Text program. "This generation of teens make and break up relationships by text. So you can get pretty strong levels of intimate conversation with text."

The program is inspired by similar initiatives, including the Teen Line service in Los Angeles and the Crisis Text Line — which is available 24/7 for teens all over the country.

The advantage of having a local service is that counselors can look up and recommend local counselors to teens who need extra help. "We have more than 2,000 providers in our databases," Draper says.

And when teens who text the helpline appear to be in imminent danger of harming themselves or others, counselors can work with the local police department to track them down make sure they're safe.

But the text-based approach poses a few challenges, as well, Draper says. "One of the tricky things is making sure we're communicating our empathy. You can't hear someone say 'Mhm, mhm' over text."

Counselors who operate the text line receive extra training, Draper says. "Over text, counselors go out of their way to make it clear that they're actively listening. We may say something like 'It sounds like this loss has been terribly devastating for you, I'm so sorry to hear that.' "

And teens who reach out to such services may need extra validation, Draper says. "The whole world could be black today and it may feel like that's the way it will be forever. They don't have life experience telling them that this is going to end and get better," he says. "The counselor's job is to really be there in the moment so they learn that they can get through this."

Privacy is another concern. "We use encrypted messages and store all the information in secure databases," Draper says. "Still, on their end, we have no control over what they do with their information. The advantage of keeping the texts on their phone is that they can read and reread these messages that were useful or important to them. But we do warn them — if they're concerned about someone seeing, they should forward their texts to a more secure setting."

"I was very excited about this program," says Nadine Kaslow, the president of the American Psychological Association and vice-chair of Emory University's psychiatry department. "I think it has a great deal of potential."

In-person counseling is the best, most effective way to help teens with mental health trouble, says Kaslow, who isn't involved with the Teen Text program. "But there will be some subgroup of teens where this text service is the only way to connect with them."

There is a lack of research on the long-term efficacy of text and mobile app based services, she notes. "The issue is that everything is anonymous and there's no way to follow-up with them to see if they ended up seeing a counselor later, or if they're doing better."

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will be tracking the number of students who use the new service, and they're planning on gathering feedback from students at the 10 pilot high schools, according to Gary Belkin, the executive deputy commissioner for mental hygiene.

If the program is successful, the health department hopes to expand it and promote it in high schools citywide.

Topics: mental health, technology, health, medical, patients, teens, text message, mobile phone

College Kids Make Robotic Arms For Children Without Real Ones

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, Mar 10, 2015 @ 12:39 PM

 Daphne Sashin

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By the time Cynthia Falardeau read about Alex Pring, a little boy who got a battery-powered robotic arm last summer, she had made peace with her son Wyatt's limb difference. 

Her premature baby had been born with his right arm tangled in amniotic bands. At a week old, doctors amputated his dead forearm and hand. They were afraid his body would be become infected and he would die. Falardeau mourned her boy's missing arm for years but, in time, embraced her son as he was. 

Wyatt also learned to adapt. They tried a couple of prosthetics when he was younger and each time the toddler abandoned the false limb within months. 

"His main interest was to create a shocking response from onlookers by pulling it off in the grocery store," Falardeau wrote on CNN iReport. In truth, she had been more concerned about getting him therapy for his autism-related delays -- the limb difference was secondary.

So when a friend shared a story from the "Today Show" with Wyatt in mind, about a team of University of Central Florida (UCF) students and graduates that made an electronic arm for 6-year-old Pring using a three-dimensional printer on campus, Falardeau was defensive. 

"He doesn't need this," she thought. 

Her fifth-grader had a different reaction: "I want one of these robot arms!" Falardeau remembers Wyatt telling her and her husband. "I could ride a bike! I might even be able to paddle a kayak!" 

There were other things the 12-year-old boy said he would do if he had two hands. A proper somersault. Clap with two hands. Dance with a pretty girl with one hand on her back and the other leading. Stuff she hadn't really thought about but he clearly had.

Falardeau got in touch with the Orlando students through E-Nable, an online volunteer organization started by Rochester Institute of Technology research scientist Jon Schull to match people who have 3-D printers with children in need of hands and arms. The organization creates and shares bionic arm designs for free download at EnablingTheFuture.org that can be assembled for as little as $20 to $50. Middle and high school student groups and Girl and Boy Scout troops are among those donating their time and materials to assemble limbs for kids and give them to recipients for free.

The UCF team, which operates a nonprofit called Limbitless Solutions, is special because it's the only group in the 3-D volunteer network making electronic arms. Most 3-D arms are mechanical, which presents a challenge for children without elbows. With mechanical arms, the child opens and closes their hand by bending their elbow. The students came up with the idea for an electronic arm with a muscle sensor that allows the child to open and close their hand by flexing their bicep.

"It's really just a step-by-step process of solving problems. The first problem we solved was: how do we make the hand move electronically? And then: how do we attach this arm to a child?" said sophomore Tyler Petresky. "It's just one problem after another we keep solving. That's what engineering is all about." 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1,500 babies in the United States are born with upper limb deformities each year. Comprehensive statistics aren't available for the number of children with amputations, such as Wyatt. 

The UCF project started when Albert Manero, an engineering doctoral student, heard a story on the radio about one of the inventors of the 3-D printed hand. He got involved with E-Nable and met Alex, a local boy teased because of his missing arm, and set about designing a robotic replacement. They gave it to Alex for free. 

"My mother taught us that we're supposed to help change the world," Manero said at the time."We're supposed to help make it better." 

The students were blown away by what happened after that. The "Today Show" and other national news outlets featured stories about Alex and Manero, and then they got international attention. Families in more than 25 countries have asked the UCF students to help their children. In February, Microsoft highlighted the team in a social media campaign celebrating students using technology to change the world.

Each electronic limb takes about 30 to 50 hours to make and assemble. The students use the printer in the school's manufacturing lab and cover the cost of materials -- about $350 -- through donations.

Petresky got involved with the design of Pring's hand because Manero knew he was good with electronics. 

"He bribed me with some pulled pork sandwiches. I went over to his house and helped him out with electronics," he said. "I found out he was working on an arm, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world."

Eventually Manero moved to Germany for a Fulbright scholarship and left Petresky in charge of running the operations in Orlando.

Petresky says they ask every family about the child's favorite color, superhero and interests, so the new limb can "not just be a piece of plastic ... but be a part of them." 

As they've designed the bionics, they've learned that kids don't necessarily want to blend in. Children have requested colorful designs inspired by superheroes, Disney's "Frozen," and in Wyatt's case, the blue-skinned men from "Blue Man Group." For Christmas, the group upgraded Alex's plain vanilla white arm to a new one resembling Optimus Prime from "Transformers."

"We quickly found out this is much less about fitting in and feeling normal, and much more about expressing yourself," Petresky said. "There's a large aspect of being artistic and being creative."

The team has made electronic arms for five children and are working with three more kids including Wyatt. He traveled with his mom to UCF last week and practiced flexing his muscle to make the hand open and close.

He expects to get fitted with his new arm later this month.

His mom, Cynthia, was most excited about seeing Wyatt being celebrated for who he is.

"The adoration of college students was an affirmation that money can't buy. He was wrapped in the joy of leading and advising students on how to help children like himself," she wrote in her iReport. "Wyatt felt like he was making a difference for himself and other children."

As they got ready to leave the campus, her son told her he can't wait to see what he will accomplish with his new arm. And someday, he said, he wants to go to UCF and help other kids like him.

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: robotic, limbs, robot, technology, health, children, medical, patients, college, students, robotic arm, 3-D printer

University of Missouri Nurse Helps Improve Hearing Aid Use

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 02, 2015 @ 02:29 PM

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A University of Missouri nurse researcher is working to ensure people who use hearing aids for the first time are not bombarded by sounds that could be overwhelming and potentially painful. 

Individuals who wear hearing aids for the first time can potentially hear sounds they have not heard in months of even years, according to a University of Missouri news release on the research. The study, published online Dec. 17, in the journal Clinical Nursing Research, looked at the feasibility and initial effect of Hearing Aid Reintroduction to assist people 70 to 85 years old to adjust to hearing aids.

Some of the noises hearing aids enable their users to hear are not always easy to embrace, researchers found. These include air conditioners, wind and background conversations which can be annoying, painful and tough to ignore, the release said.

Kari Lane, PhD, RN, MOT, assistant professor of nursing at MU Sinclair School of Nursing, studied a group of elderly adults’ satisfaction with hearing aids after participating in HEAR, according to the release. Study participants recorded the total time they wore hearing aids for 30 days. Participants gradually increased the amount of time they wore the hearing aids and the variety and complexity of sounds they experienced, including household appliances or sounds from crowded areas, the release said. 

“Hearing loss is a common health problem facing many aging adults that can have serious effects on their quality of life, including heightened chances of depression and dementia,” Lane said in the release. “Hearing aids are not an easy fix to hearing loss. Unlike glasses, which provide instant results, it takes more time for the brains of hearing-aid users to fully adjust to the aids and new sounds they could not hear before.”

All participants at the start of the research reported being unsatisfied with their hearing aids, Lane said. At the end of the study, more than half of participants reported being able to increase their hearing aid use and 60% of them said they were satisfied with their hearing aids, the release stated. 

“It is common practice for audiologists to have their patients wear hearing aids all day when they first buy them, but not all persons are able to do this comfortably,” Lane said in the release. “Prior research shows there is a need for alternative ways to teach people how to use hearing aids like the HEAR intervention, which allows hearing-aid users to gradually adjust to using the aids while receiving support and coaching from health professionals and family members.”

Healthcare providers should give patients guidance on conditions they might experience during the aging process, such as hearing loss, according to the release. Such proaction could help to reduce the stigma surrounding hearing aids, Lane said. 

“If healthcare professionals begin discussing hearing loss with their patients sooner, before problems arise, the use of hearing aids could be normalized, and individuals would be better prepared for the transition when it is time for them to begin use,” Lane said in the release. 

Source: http://news.nurse.com

Topics: medical technology, hearing, hearing loss, aid, nursing, technology, health, healthcare, nurse, patient

'Bionic' Eye Allows Man To See Wife For First Time In A Decade

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 02, 2015 @ 01:54 PM

 James McIntosh

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A blind man is now able to see objects and people again, including his wife and family, for the first time in a decade. How? With the help of a bionic eye implant. 

Affected by a degenerative condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, Allen Zderad was effectively blind, unable to see anything but a bright light. As the condition has no cure, Zderad, from Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN, was forced to quit his professional career. 

He made adjustments to his lifestyle and was able to continue woodworking through his sense of touch and spatial awareness. However, with the help of his new retinal prosthesis, Zderad is now able to make out the outlines of objects and people, and could even register his reflection in a window.

"I would like to say I think he's a remarkable man, when you consider what he's overcome in dealing with his visual disability," says Dr. Raymond Iezzi Jr., an ophthalmologist from the Mayo Clinic. "To be able to have offered him the retinal prosthesis to enhance what he can already do was a great honor for me." 

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited condition that causes the degeneration of specific cells in the retina called photoreceptors. The disease can cause some people to lose their entire vision. Mr. Zderad's grandson has the disease in its early stages and, after seeing him, Dr. Iezzi asked if he could meet his grandfather.

The eye implant that Zderad now has works by bypassing the damaged retina and sending light wave signals directly to the optic nerve. A small chip was attached to the back of the eye with multiple electrodes offering 60 points of stimulation.

'Not like any form of vision that he's had before'

Wires from the device on the retinal surface connect to a pair of glasses worn by Mr. Zderad. The glasses have a camera at the bridge of the nose that relay images to a small computer worn in a belt pack. These images are then processed and transmitted as visual information to the implant which in turn interprets them, passing them on to the retina and eventually the brain. 

"Mr. Zderad is experiencing what we call artificial vision," explains Dr. Iezzi. "It's not like any form of vision that he's had before. He's receiving pulses of electrical signal that are going on to his retina and those are producing small flashes of light called electro-phosphenes. These small flashes of light are sort of like the points of light on a scoreboard at a baseball game."

There are only 60 of these flashes of light, but it is enough for Zderad to reconstruct scenes and objects. Although he will not be able to see the details of faces or read, Mr. Zderad will now be able to navigate through crowded environments without the use of a cane, significantly improving his quality of life.

Dr. Iezzi would like to see the technology expanded to patients who have lost the use of their eyes, such as wounded soldiers or people with advanced diabetes or glaucoma.

"In addition, while Mr. Zderad has 60 points of stimulation, if we were able to increase that number to several hundred points of stimulation, I think we could extend the technology so that patients could recognize faces and perhaps even read," he concludes. 

"It's crude, but it's significant," said Zderad happily, as he first used the device. "It'll work."

Zderad will now be able to see his family again, including his 10 grandchildren and his wife, Carmen. And how does he distinguish her, having not seen her for a decade? "It's easy," says Zderad, "she's the most beautiful one in the room."

At the end of last year, Medical News Today reported on the story of a woman with quadriplegia who is now able to use her mind to move a robotic arm, demonstrating "10° brain control" of the prosthetic.

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: medical technology, clinic, technology, health, healthcare, hospital, patient, blind, bionic eye, retinitis pigmentosa, ophthalmologist, implant, senior, nerve, optic nerve

Smart Watch That Remotely Monitors Real-Time Health Status Of Older Adults

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, Feb 10, 2015 @ 09:49 AM

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The trend of wearable devices (smart accessories) like bracelets, sunglasses and watches, is rarely focused on the elderly population. However, Mexican Francisco Lopez-Lira Fennel, who lives in Spain, wants these devices to be used by older adults benefiting them with the first smart watch that remotely monitors real-time health status.

The aim of the bracelet is to constantly supervise seniors who live alone and could not get help in case of a medical emergency from a fall caused by an accident to a heart attack or an anxiety attack, explained the Mexican, who is also the founder of the company "Cualli Software".

The idea was to design a simple and practical device to offer seniors the assurance that someone is on the lookout for them 24 hours a day, even without living in the same house. Everyday situation in Spain, since according to data from the National Statistics Institute, in that country about 10 percent of Spanish households is inhabited by adults over 64 who live alone.

The smart watch, or bracelet, is a specialized health system, designed for remote monitoring of vital signs of the elderly. Using three sensors; it measures the pulse, temperature and movement, also has an audio channel, small speakers and a microphone to communicate with a call center or via smartphone with a relative who can assist them by pressing the only button on the appliance.

Thanks to wireless internet (wi-fi), or the implementation of a cellular chip to provide 3G data network, it can make an emergency call and contact a doctor. Also, it is complemented with an app for smartphones and tablets with Android and iOS systems that can be downloaded by the remote caregiver for the elderly, and thus get the data of vital signs just by checking the mobile device, because measurements are automatically uploaded to the cloud.

López -Lira Fennel, who is also a member of the Mexican Talent Network, Chapter Spain, adds other features to the bracelet, like the accelerometer and screen orientation, which serve to accommodate it to movement.

Despite the innovative device, its creator stresses that "it doesn't seek to be a smart watch, because it lacks a touchscreen, nor promotes interaction through e-mail or social networks, so it is configured for the elder adult to just put it on and not worry about knowing how to handle it, having a permanent link to the call center to check his vitals or to relatives via smartphone".

The bracelet will facilitate the work of nurses and doctors who work in nursing homes or hospitals, with its help they will be able to monitor the patient remotely, instead of requiring a person to be physically there. This is because every 30 seconds it uploads information to the cloud (blood pressure, pulse, or accidentes) for it to be seen by the doctor as well as a history of the last three months, thus giving the opportunity to prevent health complications.

In order to obtain more funds to achieve a sustainable commercial product, the employer participated in the contest, "I am an entrepreneur, I am of the Mutua", where he was among the 12 projects finalists from a total of 500 participants and also in the "passion> IE "Accenture and IE Business School, being selected among the 4 finalists in the category "Health of the future". The plan, once with a commercial product, is to promote it in Europe and migrate to the US market. (Agencia ID)

Source: www.news-medical.net

Topics: adults, gadgets, wearable, smart, monitor, smart accessories, devices, technology, health, health care, medical, patients, elderly, seniors

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