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DC Children’s Hospital Turns to mHealth for Concussion Treatment

Children's National Medical Center will be using an mHealth platform and virtual reality software to track and analyze eye movement in children and adolescents who have suffered concussions.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- A Washington, DC-based pediatric hospital will be using an mHealth platform to improve concussion treatment for children and adolescents.

In a year-long program, Children’s National Medical Center will be using EYE-SYNC technology created by Boston-based SyncThink, which uses virtual reality glasses to track ocular movement. The connected health technology will be integrated into the hospital’s Safe Concussion Outcome Recovery and Education (SCORE) program, aimed at improving analysis and outcomes for those between the ages of six and 16 who suffer a concussion.

“The SCORE program at Children’s National was established in 2003 with the mission of promoting developmentally appropriate assessment and treatment for children with concussion,” Dr. Christopher Vaughan, assistant director of the SCOIRE program, said in a press release. “Measuring eye tracking in youth with the EYE-SYNC product may improve our multimodal and developmentally sensitive assessment process.”

“By identifying ocular motor specific problems after concussion, we can move toward providing early targeted treatment interventions for these kids with ocular motor and vestibular problems after injury,” he added.

The EYE-SYNC digital health platform is now being used in a number of locations across the country, including Stanford Children’s Health, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Also using the technology are the Pac-12 conference, the University of Texas, the University of Georgia, the Golden State Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks.

One of the early adopters was Steven Zonner, DO, a family medicine practitioner with the Washington Township Medical Foundation in Union City, outside San Francisco, who started using the technology during the 2016 high school football season.

In a 2017 interview with mHealthIntelligence, Zonner said the VR-enabled glasses help doctors identify the subtype of concussion by assessing the movement of both eyes, one of the most common indicators of head trauma. That movement - ocular-motor synchronization and vestibular balance dysfunction - is translated into an algorithm that gives doctors an objective assessment of the patient’s condition.

That’s a far cry from the days when a doctor might ask the patient what his or her name is, what day it is, or how many fingers are held up.

“What we’ve found is the eyes not only tell us what the problem is but where the problem is,” he said, noting that concussion come in many different types and levels of severity. mHealth technology, he said, helps doctors “peel back the layers of a concussion like an onion.”

Stanford launched its own multi-year study with SyncThink in August, targeting the program at high school athletes.

“We see eye tracking assessment as a key metric alongside other advanced technologies, which is also being implemented at all Pac-12 schools,” Stanford Neurosurgeon and Principal Investigator Gerald Grant, MD, FACS, said in a media release.

The company has been careful of late to market its product as “revolutionary eye-tracking technology and analytics, in a VR environment, that assist medical professionals in assessing brain health, monitoring recovery, and optimizing performance.” In September, the US Food and Drug Administration warned the company to remove marketing language that claimed the technology could detect concussions, saying that use hadn’t been part of the FDA’s approval.

“Specifically, the EYE-SYNC device was cleared as a prescription device under K152915 with the following indications for use: recording, viewing, and analyzing eye movements in support of identifying visual tracking impairment in human subjects,” the letter noted. “However, your firm’s promotion of the device provides evidence that the device is intended for cognitive assessment/testing of concussions and head trauma, including in injured athletes and soldiers, which would constitute a major change or modification to its intended use, for which your firm lacks clearance or approval.”


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