Wearable devices, patient data & the future of specialty surgical care: 6 Qs with VivaLNK's CEO

Written by Shayna Korol | August 21, 2018 | Print  |

As healthcare technology becomes increasingly interconnected, surgeons have new opportunities to reduce hospital readmissions and improve the quality of patient care.

In a recent interview with Becker's Spine Review, VivaLNK CEO Jiang Li discussed how wearable patient monitoring technology can transform orthopedic and spine care.

Question: How can VivaLNK's technology impact orthopedic and spine care specifically?

Jiang Li: VivaLNK's Fever Scout is an FDA-cleared wearable continuous temperature monitor that tracks changes in body temperature and can send the data over a network to a provider. The device is designed to allow patients at home to be monitored remotely. Fever is often the first symptom of infection for surgery patients, including orthopedic and spinal surgeries, so it is important to be able to not only track temperature accurately but also continuously, so patterns can be better identified.

Continuous monitoring capabilities for activity levels can also help with reducing readmissions and providing better care. Clinicians are starting to use accelerometers in wearables, such as Fitbit, when it is valuable to see how much they are moving around after discharge. While it is not medical-grade data, it has given clinicians a view of the patient at home. Coupled with electrocardiography sensors and stress monitoring, devices such as VivaLNK's Vital Scout can provide a more comprehensive remote patient monitoring solution to ensure proper follow-through post-discharge. This is particularly important for the aging population undergoing knee and hip surgeries.

Q: How can telemetry devices shape the future of healthcare?

JL: Wearable telemetry devices encompass a variety of sensors that can monitor basic human vitals as well as other health-related indicators, such as stress, activity and sleep. This means the level and quality of healthcare provided within clinical or hospital environments can be replicated at home or other sparsely-supported remote locations. By enabling quality healthcare to be more widely accessible and cost-effective, many issues can not only be diagnosed and treated earlier but also prevented altogether.

The healthcare world is also opening technology solutions in the way the IT world has for many years through developer programs where healthcare solution providers can access, and build upon, technologies from industry partners. VivaLNK has opened its wearable sensor platform to allow industry partners to build vertical and niche application solutions without having to build the entire vertical stack, thereby accelerating time-to-market.

Q: What are some trends in the application of telemetry devices to specialty surgical care?

JL: Post-discharge remote patient monitoring is an area of growing interest driven by improvements in patient care and the need to reduce hospital readmissions. Once a patient leaves the hospital environment, the level of care and resources for patient monitoring drop significantly and are largely dependent on the availability of user-friendly solutions and patient cooperation.

There is opportunity in infection monitoring. Current methods involve the patient or onsite caregiver manually taking periodic readings, which is prone to human error. A study in the BMJ notes infection is one of the leading causes of avoidable hospital readmission, usually within 30 days of discharge. Since temperature is a key indicator of infection, our Fever Scout temperature monitoring solution is undergoing testing for wound-site temperature monitoring.

The incision or wound location's temperature rises before the rest of the body. In orthopedics, previous attempts to monitor this have proven difficult as there is often a cast or covering the wound site. New electronic flex-based technologies are now small enough to be configured near the wound site under bandages and casts.

Q: What do stakeholders need to know about the current state of the technology and its potential?

JL: There is a shift in the way healthcare is delivered — from symptom-driven and doctor-prescribed approaches to patient-driven and preventive health-focused. More and more FDA-cleared, user-friendly wearables directly available to consumers are supporting this shift. Providers need to understand how these devices can be used in the care plan and educate themselves on using patient-derived data in making care decisions. This shift is going to help clinicians to more effectively monitor and diagnose patients remotely in a cost-effective and delivery-efficient way.

Q: What challenges does VivaLNK's technology help overcome?

JL: User adoption is key — if the patient doesn't use it, it won't matter how good the technology is. Additionally, without medical-grade accuracy, the data is of limited use. VivaLNK solves these two fundamental issues by creating consumer-friendly wearable devices that capture medical-grade data.

Q: What is the value of making this technology available to the orthopedic and spine audience?

JL: For providers, the benefits are increased patient engagement, higher quality of care and reduced readmission rates. For patients, the benefits are early detection and reduced hospital visits as well as costs. In the spine and orthopedics world, this means the focus is on preventing complications and focusing more on health and staying well.

More articles on devices:
Top 10 device companies in spine surgery product market & where they stand
Medtronic Q1 2019 revenue flat at $7.3B, CEO Omar Ishrak 'bullish' on competitive opportunities: 5 things to know
Kathie Lenzen joins Xtant Medical as CFO: 4 things to know

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