Mercy Health St. Mary's begins using remote patient-care technology

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is the first hospital in Michigan to use the Abbott NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic technology, which is used to treat patients with chronic pain or movement disorders.

It allows patients to communicate with physicians and specialists, ensuring proper settings and functionality of surgically implanted deep brain stimulation technology that providers can set remotely, according to a news release Thursday.

“Much like telemedicine added a new layer of convenience and improvement in being able to care for our patients, this just takes that telemedicine one step further in improving our patient-care experience for those with movement disorders like Parkinson’s or tremors,” said Danette Taylor, DO, medical director of the movement disorders program at Mercy Health Hauenstein Neuroscience Center. “We’re excited about the possibility for those who felt driving from a long distance would not be an option, or if they are anxious about COVID-19. Patients are hearing about this and recognizing that this may be a realistic opportunity for them.”

Initially, patients undergo surgery where they are implanted with a deep brain stimulation fine wire battery device.

Once implanted, they meet with their neurologist, who “tweaks” their apparatus.

After they are set up, changes made in the app are relayed directly to the patient’s compatible iOS smartphone or Apple iPod Touch mobile device.

“The patients can see and talk to their doctors, and the physician can make meaningful programming changes while the patient is in their living room,” said Donnemarie Rockwell, senior territory manager for Abbott Deep Brain Stimulation. “Physicians can see their patients’ stiffness, rigidity, can watch them walk, etc. Some tests doctors may do in person, like having the patient take a drink of water after an adjustment, can still be assessed through the app. It’s as easy as doing an update on your phone.”

Paul Bailey, who suffers from essential tremors that can cause shakiness and instability in both his hands, was the first patient at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s to be treated with remote programming.

“I was really impressed with the whole thing – it was great,” he said in a news release prepared by Mercy Health. “I tell my story to my friends and neighbors, and they’re fascinated that I can log onto an iPod, connect with my doctor and then she can make adjustments right then and there.”

Neurologists hope they’ll be able to reach more patients with the technology, especially those concerned about driving in inclement weather, living in rural communities or hesitant to see their providers in person as COVID-19 cases increase.

So far, 92 hospitals across the country have completed programming sessions for 1,300 people, and the system has more than 500 clinicians.