CES 2021: Medical Treatments Go Digital

Video games for ADHD?

Key Takeaways

  • Software treatments are an increasingly viable option for patients who can’t get to the doctor during the coronavirus pandemic, participants on a CES panel said Monday 
  • Propeller uses FDA-cleared sensors and platforms to monitor when people use their inhalers and rescue medications

The company Dreem offers a wearable headband that tracks sleep patterns and can offer customized programs to improve your slumber’s quality

Screenshot of video game meant to help treat ADHD
Akili Interactive

Patients are increasingly able to get their medical treatments through software solutions, including video games, members of a CES panel said Tuesday. 

The treatments that are going digital range from software that promises to treat ADHD to programs that companies say can monitor and improve your sleep. Many of the software treatments are driven by advances in artificial intelligence. The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the use of software in medicine as more people turn to telemedicine during social distancing measures, experts said. 

“Our surveys found that since the spring, a third of our users have had a remote care visit,” Meredith Barrett, vice president of population health research at ResMed/Propeller Health, told the panel. “Telemedicine is going to be a part of patients’ lives.” 

Smart Inhalers for Asthma

Propeller Health is focused on respiratory diseases such as asthma, using FDA-cleared sensors and platforms to monitor when people use their inhalers and rescue medications. The company provides sensors that fit the inhalers, and wirelessly sends information about when the inhalers are used. 

“We get the data and can see patterns of use,” Barrett said. The information is sent to both medical providers and patients, and by looking at patterns, doctors can devise better treatment plans, she said. 

Monitoring respiratory diseases is particularly important during the coronavirus pandemic because conditions like asthma have been shown to increase the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, she said. 

Propeller’s data also can monitor how the environment affects respiratory health in a particular area, Barrett said. For example, when a coal plant in Kentucky shut down, the company could see that people nearby used their respiratory medications less. 

“Through sensory and motor stimulus, you can target areas of the brain in a much more specific way than through traditional devices and medications.”

Another treatment delivered via software is Akili Interactive’s new EndeavorRx, which the company bills as the first-and-only prescription treatment provided through a video game. The software is intended for children who have ADHD and/or other cognitive disabilities. 

“Through sensory and motor stimulus, you can target areas of the brain in a much more specific way than through traditional devices and medications,” Eddie Martucci, the co-founder and CEO of Akili Interactive, told the panel. 

The software that powers EndeavorRX is based on over a decade of clinical research, Martucci said. It works by stimulating areas of the brain that target neural networks, he added. It’s available by prescription only. “The weak link in attention processing is that you have to have fun while you are doing it,” he said. 

To Sleep, Perchance to Compute

Sleep is another area where researchers see the opportunity to deliver treatments through software. Dreem, for example, offers a wearable headband that tracks sleep patterns and can offer customized programs to improve the quality of your slumber. 

Person in bed with Dreem headband on
Dreem

The headband includes an EEG monitor that produces data equal to the kind that previously was only possible by visiting a sleep laboratory, Vik Panda, managing director of Dreem in North America, told the panel. 

“A lack of sleep hinders not only performance but also longer-term health,” he said. Those who don’t get enough sleep are “three times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes,” Panda pointed out. 

Welldoc is another software device that offers real-time coaching for people with certain types of diabetes and other metabolic conditions. It sells an FDA-cleared device that monitors how people are using their treatments and then runs the data through algorithms to optimize their routines. “You are not just optimizing for behavior modification, you are getting it to doctors to find best treatment pathways,” Anand Iyer, the chief strategy officer of Welldoc, told the panel. 

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