Mercy Health Saint Mary’s First Hospital in Michigan Using New Remote Patient-Care Technology

Paul Bailey enjoying one of his favorite hobbies

Paul Bailey longs for the day he can clean and fillet his catch after fishing at the lake, do small jobs around the house with his tools, play tennis, and dine in at restaurants.

“Right now, it’s just not possible with my tremors. I make a mess and spill all over,” said Bailey, who suffers from Essential Tremors which cause shakiness and instability in both of his hands. “The fact I can write my name again is a miracle. It’s been months since I had been able to do that, but thanks to this technology, I am feeling more like myself.”

The technology is the Abbott NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic used to treat patients, like Bailey, with chronic pain or movement disorders. It is the first-of-its-kind remote patient – care system and allows patients to communicate with physicians and specialists, ensuring proper settings and functionality of surgically implanted deep brain stimulation technology that providers can set remotely.

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is the first hospital in Michigan to deploy this technology.

“Much like telemedicine added a new layer of convenience and improvement in being able to  care for our patients, this just takes that telemedicine one step further in improving our patient -care experience for those with movement disorders like Parkinson’s or tremors,” said Danette Taylor, DO, medical director of Movement Disorders Program at Mercy Health Hauenstein Neuroscience Center. “We’re excited about the possibility for those who felt driving from a long distance would not be an option, or if they are anxious about COVID-19. Patients are hearing about this and recognizing that this may be a realistic opportunity for them.”

The technology is simple to use, even for Bailey, who is 85 -years -old. He has not been able to pick up a cup of coffee for three years, but can now hold a fork and spoon with greater ease. The Korean War veteran, retired United Methodist pastor, and great grandfather says he connects to WiFi, logs in to chat with Dr. Taylor, and she can make adjustments from there.

“I felt the tingling right away, so I knew that it was working,” said Bailey. “I was really impressed with the whole thing – it was great. I tell my story to my friends and neighbors, and they’re fascinated that I can log on to an iPod, connect with my doctor, and then she can make adjustments right then and there.”

Initially, patients undergo surgery where they are implanted with a deep brain stimulation fine wire battery device.  Once implanted, they meet with their neurologist who ‘tweaks’ their apparatus. After they are set up, changes made in the app are relayed directly to the patient’s compatible iOS smartphone or Apple iPod touch mobile device.

“The patients can see and talk to their doctors, and the physician can make meaningful programming changes while the patient is in their living room,” said Donnemarie Rockwell, senior territory manager for Abbott Deep Brain Stimulation. “Physicians can see the patients’ stiffness, rigidity, can watch them walk, etc.  Some tests doctors may do in person, like having the patient take a drink of water after an adjustment, that can still be assessed through the app. It’s as easy as doing an update on your phone.”

Ninety-two hospitals across the country have completed programming sessions for 1,300 people, and the system has more than 500 clinicians. Neurologists are hoping they can reach more patients with the technology, especially those concerned about driving in inclement weather, living in rural communities, or hesitant to see their providers in person as COVID-19 cases increase.

For Paul Bailey and his wife, Lynn, they like to visit their cottage at Sandy Pines Recreational Community in Hopkins, Michigan, throughout the summer. The new technology offers Paul the convenience of not having to drive to Grand Rapids while at the lake.

“Dr. Taylor called me for my first adjustment when we were camping. She said I’m going to adjust the device right now,” said Bailey. “She asked if I could feel it tingling and I said I could and then I heard applause in the background. She said people from the Hauenstein neurology team and Abbott were there to see how it worked. She said, ‘You’re the first we’ve ever done this to.’ I didn’t realize the importance of it, but I can tell you it has been life-changing for me.”

If you would like to connect with the Mercy Health Neurosciences team about this technology or any other Neuro-related issues, visit: Neurosciences | Mercy Health or call (616) 685-5050.  

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