After Robert broke his leg in three places and subsequently had to have surgery, he found himself in near-constant pain despite the range of treatments he tried. The peripheral nerve damage caused by the surgery resulted in such an extreme case of hyper-sensitivity that the U.S. Marine Corps officer felt like he was being stabbed by daggers anytime water touched his leg. The husband and father of a 2-year-old little girl knew he had to do something.
Amputation was an option, but he wanted to try a less-invasive approach. So, with the help of physicians at The Pain Institute of Southern Arizona, he received a spinal cord stimulation implant. It completely changed his life. He no longer needs to carry a bag of medications with him wherever he goes, and he can effortlessly and discretely adjust his treatment when he needs it. It has revolutionized his care.
Now, new technology from Abbott, called NeuroSphere™ Virtual Clinic, is helping revolutionize Robert’s care again. The NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic is a first-of-its-kind technology that allows people in the U.S. living with chronic pain and movement disorders to communicate with physicians, ensure proper settings and functionality, and receive new treatment settings remotely as needed. Prior to its development, remote care technology only allowed physicians to monitor patients or interact with them through video calls, but no actual stimulation therapy changes could be administered.
For Robert, this means that his doctor can tailor his device settings to match what he is experiencing in the moment rather than having to go to the office to be seen. And, because he loves to travel, he can get relief even if he is in a hotel room thousands of miles away.
NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic, which works with Abbott’s suite of neuromodulation implants, was developed with the goal of addressing one of the biggest threats Americans face today: the ability – or lack thereof – to access the care they need when they need it.
This issue is particularly profound for people with chronic pain and movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, which can make it difficult for a person to walk, move or travel long distances. Even for people who live close to a provider, dealing with public transportation or asking someone else to drive them, finding time to get off from work and managing in-person visits around other priorities can place an undue burden. Without digital or remote options, those living with these chronic conditions are more likely to delay or forego much-needed care.
This, in turn, can severely impact a person’s quality of life, including their ability to work, spend time with their loved ones or be part of their communities. It can also have lasting repercussions for families and communities, especially when you consider that more than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain[i], almost 1 million people live with Parkinson’s disease[ii] and an estimated 7 million people live with an essential tremor[iii].
But access-to-care issues don’t stop with chronic pain and movement disorders. They can be found throughout the U.S. because a significant number of Americans live in so-called medical deserts, which are areas with inadequate access to medical services, including specialists.[iv] Medical deserts are often found in rural areas where hospitals have closed and healthcare providers have moved away[v], but can also be present in urban areas, where people can struggle to get to a doctor’s office or healthcare facility. Medical deserts force people to drive longer distances to access care and can make it difficult for people to receive both primary care and specialty care.
Many in the U.S. were unaware of the challenges created when access to in-person care is limited or nonexistent, but the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced how problematic it can be — especially when people have a critical need. Many providers turned to remote and telehealth options, only to find that it allowed them to talk with their patients, but not directly alleviate pain or discomfort for their patients in real time.
Ultimately, expanding true virtual care technology will be the key to solving at least part of the access-to-care conundrum in the U.S. The NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic technology has opened new possibilities for how and when people with chronic care and movement disorders can access the care they need, and it has set a new standard for the next evolution of virtual care.
Achieving new possibilities for how people access care is going to require everyone across the healthcare continuum to fundamentally rethink our approach. This isn’t simply a matter of developing a better treatment. Instead, we need to place people at the center of the care equation and develop innovative therapies that will fit within their lives by leveraging the technological and digital advancements available to us today. By continuing to push the digital health bounds, we can ensure that people like Robert are able to engage in life and achieve the best health possible.
To learn more, please visit https://neurosphere.abbott. Please review the Important Safety Information (ISI) for complete information regarding the Abbott SCS device’s indications, contraindications, warnings, and precautions.
[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults – United States, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm. Accessed March 8, 2022.
[ii] Parkinson’s Foundation. Statistics. https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Statistics. Accessed March 8, 2022.
[iii] National Organization for Rare Diseases. Essential Tremor. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/essential-tremor/. Accessed March 8, 2022.
[iv] Chevillard, Guillaume; Lucas-Gabrielli, Véronique; Mousquès, Julien (2018). Dill, Lan (ed.). “Medical deserts in France: Current state of research and future trends”. L’Espace Géographique. 47: 362–380.
[v] Schulte A, Majerol M, Nadler J. Narrowing the rural-urban health divide. Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/public-sector/virtual-health-telemedicine-rural-areas.html. Published Nov. 27, 2019. Accessed Feb. 15, 2021.