Expanding access to neurological care

Imagine a world where your cellphone, tablet or smart speakers can detect abnormalities in brain function before you notice any changes.

It sounds very futuristic, but turning these everyday technologies into diagnostic powerhouses is not that far away. For example, some smartwatches can uncover certain heart conditions, and wearable biosensors are being used to monitor vitals.

These are all part of efforts to care for people where they are. These types of technologies can also help us expand access to specialized care.

We have a nationwide shortage of neurologists. That means when someone develops symptoms, it could be months before they receive an evaluation. In addition, there are bottlenecks to caring for those who have neurological conditions.

How do we decrease wait times and identify people who need to be seen more urgently? And how do we provide continuing care for those who’ve already been diagnosed with a neurological disorder?

The NeuroHealth Lab, a part of OSF Innovation, aims to answer these questions by discovering new ways to assess, identify and treat people with neurological issues sooner.

Next generation solutions

The NeuroHealth Lab is working to improve and expand neurologic care in a number of ways. The first is through education. New physicians and other clinicians do not have the experience needed to recognize indicators of abnormal neurological function.

To fill this learning gap, the lab has created four task trainers that replicate spasticity, rigidity, muscle weakness and clonus of the ankle. This will give medical students and residents consistent training experiences to identify these abnormalities.

Dr. Chris Zallek and assitant using tablet to detect brain functionAnother concept in the works could lead to earlier diagnoses of neurological disorders. Our lab is developing a mobile application to video record and objectively measure specific exam findings. This enables primary care clinicians to accurately communicate results to neurologists digitally without concern for misinterpretation.

The idea is for neurologists to have the information they need to triage a patient for evaluation, or make diagnoses without waiting for the patient to come to them. This application could also be used to monitor a patient’s neurological condition, regardless of location.
The goal of our third project is to help improve the quality of life for those with advanced ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders who have limited to no movement.

The lab is designing a mattress that can autonomously provide site-specific pressure relief and whole-body repositioning without the need for a caregiver. The goal is to give patients the ability to readjust themselves when they want to.

Partner with us

The long-term vision of the NeuroHealth Lab is to make it easier for health care providers to track a person’s neurological function using technologies that are part of everyday life.

It’s my belief that the information produced by our personal devices is powerful, and will eventually lead to earlier detection of certain conditions and interventions that change a person’s outcome for the better.

If you are interested in learning more about the NeuroHealth Lab, participating in certain aspects of the journey or if you want to invest or partner, contact us today.

Categories: Bioengineering, Clinical Simulation, Engineering, Illinois Neurological Institute (INI), Innovation, Medical Students, Neurology, OSF Innovation, Task Trainer, University of Illinois (U of I), University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP)