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Mayo Clinic Uses An mHealth App to Identify Epileptic Seizures

A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Arizona has found that an mHealth app can be used to diagnose epilepsy. It's one of several mobile health tools being used to manage care for people with chronic conditions.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Researchers at the Mayor Clinic are reporting success with an mHealth app that can diagnose epilepsy.

The EpiFinder app reportedly correctly identified epilepsy or offered an accurate alternative diagnosis in almost 87 percent of the cases during a recent study at the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Neurology.

The app analyzes data entered into the platform by either the patient or a care provider. Its creator, Neel Mehta, says the tool can be used by either a doctor or a consumer.

It’s one of several mHealth tools being used to improve care management for people living with epilepsy.

This past February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a wearable, called the Embrace, that can detect the onset of a serious epileptic seizure and alert care team members. And last year, Johns Hopkins University announced the completion of a 10-month study during which researchers remotely monitored some 600 people with epilepsy through the EpiWatch app on their Apple Watches, enabling them to gather data on epileptic seizures and daily care.

mHealth experts say sensor-embedded wearables can help providers monitor patients dealing with any number of chronic conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure, COPD and diabetes. By analyzing data collected by the sensors in real time and comparing that to outside factors such as diet, activity, moods and even weather, they can better determine what causes adverse health events like seizures, warn patients when they’re trending toward such an event and adjust care plans to improve overall health.

In the Mayo Clinic study, published this past March in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, 57 patients were monitored from January through June at the clinic’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit in Arizona. In all, 53 patients experienced seizures during that time period. Using continuous video-EEG (cVEEG) monitoring, doctors determined that 26 patients suffered epileptic seizures, while 27 were found to have a diagnosis other than epilepsy.

Doctors then fed the information on each seizure into the app. In all, the app correctly identified epilepsy or a different diagnosis in 46 cases; it incorrectly diagnosed epilepsy in four cases and didn’t identify epilepsy when it should have in three other cases.

“The initial testing of the EpiFinder algorithm suggests possible utility in differentiating between an epilepsy syndrome and an alternative diagnosis in adult patients,” the researchers, led by Erin M. Okazaki, concluded.

They also noted that the app, classified by the FDA is a clinical decision support tool, needs more vetting, since their study only used doctors who were well-versed in epilepsy treatment.

“Further vetting of the application among non-epilepsy-specific providers will be important to assess if the current method for gathering data is universally applicable,” they wrote.

Mehta told MD Magazine that the EpiFinder app will now be trialed at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and his company is “in talks with several neurologists and epileptologists to conduct studies focusing on adding peripherals and EEG devices to the original tool.”

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