Now what? This is the question that wearable tech companies face as they attempt to make the transition from wellness to healthcare. While many wearables allow users to track wellness metrics like steps and sleeping time, there is a critical need to analyze and translate this data into clinically actionable health information. One company that has successfully answered this question and is leading the way in this area is BioSensics, who were the showcase exhibitors at Biotech Connection Boston’s recent event, Big Data Gets Personal: Transforming Healthcare in the Age of Wearable Tech.
BioSensics has positioned themselves at the critical junction between biomedical research and product development by focusing on unique wearables in the healthcare space. Founded at Harvard in 2007, every project BioSensics explores is grounded in collaborative academic research with leading medical centers, including the University of Arizona, the Arizona Center on Aging, and, here in Boston, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
One of BioSensics’ core technologies is an activity monitoring system. While this sounds similar to many other wearables, the key behind BioSensics’ success lies in their data algorithms. According to Dr. Joseph Gwin, Vice President of Research and Development, “…the sensor technologies we use are ubiquitous, our innovation comes from algorithms and analysis that address specific clinical needs.” By combining patented algorithms with their tri-axial acceleromenter technology, BioSensics has developed two marketed products: PAMSys (a configurable tool primarily geared towards research purposes) and ActivePERS (a personal emergency response system). While many may be familiar with devices like LifeAlert, what sets ActivePERS apart is that it is based on a patented and clinically tested fall-detection algorithm. ActivePERS has recently been adopted by GreatCall’s 5Star urgent response service to automatically call emergency response personnel when a fall is detected. BioSensics has additionally licensed both the software and hardware behind ActivePERS to other companies.
BioSensics also has a number of exciting projects in their pipeline. One project is adapting their activity monitoring system to help wheelchair users. This project is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and takes a two-pronged approach to improve the health of wheelchair users. A pressure mat on the seat of the wheelchair links with the user’s smartphone and measures pressure relief maneuvers. These pressure relief maneuvers are critical to allow tissues to reperfuse with blood and to prevent pressure ulcers. Additionally, BioSensics is quantifying physical activity of wheelchair users by measuring wheel pushes, which is analogous to step tracking. These technologies will be entering clinical trials in collaboration with the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, with a target market date of mid-2016.
Another area of healthcare that BioSensics is focusing on is frailty, which has become increasingly important as a biomarker that can impact pre-surgical decisions, discharge assessments, and primary care in geriatrics. Current gold standards for frailty measurements are the Rockwood Frailty Index or the Fried Frailty Criteria, both of which involve questionnaires and numerous physical tests. In collaboration with the University of Arizona, BioSensics has created a wrist-worn device that rapidly assesses frailty by measuring the speed, range of movement, and biomechanics of simple arm movements in patients. Importantly, these assessments correlate with the current gold standard for frailty measurements. BioSensics is currently integrating this wrist-worn technology into a marketable product, with funding from the National Institute on Aging.
These projects are only the tip of the healthcare iceberg that BioSensics is aiming to tackle. They are also working on stroke rehabilitation in conjunction with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and working with Partners HealthCare in a multi-site trial of fall-injury prevention strategies. The latter project will allow BioSensics to leverage the data being gathered from this ongoing study to further optimize their fall detection algorithm. Additionally, they are exploring options to move into neuromuscular diseases such as Huntington’s or muscular dystrophy to potentially use their activity monitoring system to generate an outcome measurement in clinical trials. As their technologies and algorithms continue to improve, BioSensics is moving past “now what?” to make sure that “now” is the future of wearables in healthcare.