Southern Hills Hospital Explores IoT’s Potential to Bring Drug-free Relief

By Claire Swedberg

The Las Vegas facility is trialing a system that measures a patient's brain waves and—based on that data—delivers games, music and video content via a tablet in order to lessen pain, anxiety or nausea.

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When patients in pain visit the emergency department at Las Vegas’ Southern Hills Hospital, taking medication is no longer their only option. The medical facility also provides a new technological approach to reducing stress, pain and nausea, via a headband that measures brain waves and a tablet computer that provides content to alleviate the tension detected by the brain-wave measurements.

Until recently, when health-care providers wanted to gauge the level of discomfort a patient was enduring, they typically had to ask that individual to rate his or her pain—for example, on a scale of 1 to 10—and then use that information to plan treatment accordingly. If they wanted to ease the patient’s pain, they needed to administer medication.

AccendoWave uses an InteraXon headband, which captures brain-wave measurements via its seven built-in EEG electrodes and transmits that data via a Bluetooth connection.

Several months ago AccendoWave released an alternative solution that does not require medication and is personalized to each patient. The system was released in June 2015, says Martha Lawrence, AccendoWave’s founder and CEO, and has since been tested at several facilities. The company has spent seven years researching its solution for assessing patient discomfort levels, and is now using a headband provided by InteraXon. The InteraXon headband measures electroencephalography (EEG) activity via its seven built-in EEG sensor leads and transmits that data via a Bluetooth connection to a tablet PC. Accendowave software running on that tablet analyzes that EEG data and then provides content aimed at reducing that discomfort. .

Southern Hills CEO, Adam Rudd

Southern Hills Hospital has 134 beds and serves patients throughout the Las Vegas area. The facility’s emergency department has 56 AccendoWave headband devices for use by patients of all ages. The system provides what Adam Rudd, the hospital’s CEO, calls diversion therapy. Each patient in discomfort, either due to stress, pain or nausea, is offered the AccendoWave device to help provide distraction tailored to that individual, based on the patient’s brain waves as he or she views content on a tablet.

The tablet, a Samsung Tab 4, uses its built-in AccendoWave software to process patient brain-wave data and then display diversionary content, including games, music, video clips and full-length movies. If, as a patient views a specific piece of content, the brain waves change to indicate increasing comfort, that content remains on the screen. If the content does not appear to have a positive effect on the brain waves, the software continues to select other content until it displays something appealing to the patient.

The brain-wave data is used only for discomfort management, with no EEG data or other personal information saved. However, says Maura Wright, Southern Hills Hospital’s chief nursing officer, once finished with the device, patients are invited to fill out a questionnaire to indicate their satisfaction with it. That data is then forwarded to AccendoWave’ server via a cellular connection provided by AT&T, and is shared with the hospital so that it can assess the system’s effectiveness.

Maura Wright, Southern Hills’ CNO

Health-care providers can also view the comfort-level data on the tablet screen while the patient is wearing the sensor headband, Wright says, in order to assess how much pain or discomfort that individual is experiencing. But if drugs become necessary, she notes, they don’t specifically use the AccendoWave-based data to assess the amount of medication they should administer. Instead, it provides a confirmation as to whether the proper care is being provided. “From a clinical standpoint,” she explains, “it gives us a better picture” of the patient’s discomfort level than simply relying on his or her own reported distress.

Rudd says he was skeptical when he was introduced to the technology. “I put it on and I looked like something from Back to the Future,” he recalls. However, he is now convinced that the system is proving to help many patients. “As diversionary therapy, it’s very impactful.”

When the devices were being designed, Lawrence says, it was important to employ a wireless system, to ensure that no cord would be necessary between the electrodes and the tablet. “Folks are already connected to so many things” in a hospital, she points out. If a wire were used to transmit data to the tablet, it would require that patients and personnel fiddle with and untangle that cord, which could be especially complicated if there were other cords in the patient’s vicinity.

AccendoWave’s Martha Lawrence

Since the system was taken live at the hospital in October, 1,600 patients have used the device to date, and more than 450 have completed surveys afterwards regarding their experience. More than 90 percent of responders reported viewing the system in a positive light.

The hospital next intends to roll out the technology within its other departments, as well as in an expanded area currently under construction. That area, which will feature 46 more beds, is expected to open in March 2016.