One Caring Team testing virtual reality for dementia and depression treatment, relief

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/vr-elderly-2_wide-af9c501d8fea7232e366e38b699ee41ee4040334-s1500-c85.jpg” thumb_width=”250″ /]A San Francisco-based company, One Caring Team, is visiting Bay Area seniors with a treatment that is also a treat–virtual reality headsets that recreate a beach or other relaxing environment. VR has been used with Microsoft Kinect in game-playing in assisted living communities, but the physician-founder Sonya Kim is seeking to give a break most to those older people with dementia or depression. They no longer can travel and their world has grown very small. VR gives them an opportunity to hear and see things they haven’t in a long time, if ever. Versions being tested have both a VR picture, narration on screen and audio; versions for dementia patients skip written ‘bubbles’. The point is to have the clients/patients feel safe, relaxed and welcomed. Some of the results have been that patients start to speak, interact with the pictures intuitively and be more alert, with lasting effects between VR visits. Formal studies have been done in other settings for pain management and for rehab, but this is a new company and concept. One problem is cost: $850 for each Samsung Gear VR headset plus the Galaxy smartphone, but if anything help on VR and social funding is easy to find the Bay Area; founder of the Virtual World Society, the University of Washington’s virtual interface pioneer Dr. Tom Furness, is now One Caring Team’s acting chief technology officer. Washington Post, NPR, F6S.com (Photo from One Caring Team via NPR)

Sonde Health using voice as a biomarker for diagnosis

Back in 2013, we profiled Max Little of the UK-based Parkinson’s Voice Initiative, who was in the fairly early stages of voice testing and analysis to aid early diagnosis of this disease. By 2015, he had over 17,000 voice samples, was partnering with the Michael J Fox Foundation, and was seeking to develop a non-invasive, quick, accurate test based on acoustic markers. Dr Little is an Oxford University PhD, currently a Wellcome Trust/MIT fellow at the MIT Media Lab. The Voice Initiative has additional support from PatientsLikeMe, Twilio and Aculabcloud.  But also developed at MIT, by Thomas Quatieri’s team at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, is a broader platform for voice diagnosis. This has been applied to mental health conditions such as depression, respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, and in pilots for TBI, cognitive impairment and…Parkinson’s. This has been licensed to Sonde Health, which hasn’t much on their website but is out of the Boston-based PureTech R&D/venture firm. The acoustic markers they cite are ‘dynamic changes in pitch and harmonics, articulation timing and hoarseness or breathiness that indicate and requires no analysis of words’. MedCityNews, MedTechBoston

Study: success of behavioral telehealth for caregivers

Caregivers for those with neurocognitive disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, dementias and other related progressive diseases) have unique, long-term stressors that lead to increased risk for distress, depression, and negative health outcomes. Conventional approaches through support groups and community based programs are helpful but not adequate, especially for those living in rural areas at a distance from care. This study of 74 women caregivers with mild to moderate depression tested two approaches: a 14-week behavioral intervention using video instructional materials (DVD/VHS), in-person telephone coaching in behavioral management and reinforcing workbook materials, with pleasant events scheduling and relaxation, versus a basic education guide and limited telephone support. The first approach was a statistical improvement over the second, easing caregiver depression and helping in their managing patient behavior. Results were maintained six months after the program ended. “Distance-based interventions (e.g., telephone, video, Internet, and bibliotherapy) hold promise for family carers, especially those living in rural or metropolitan areas with limited transportation.” Now if we could add in some tablet based interactive support? A telehealth behavioral coaching intervention for neurocognitive disorder family carers (International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry)  Hat tip to Mike Clark via Twitter

More (much more) on tDCS brain stimulation research

Prepare to be shocked! Can brain enhancing techniques via  transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) be the future of performance enhancement? Will it be the future basis of recovery from some mental illnesses, stroke and other neurological diseases? It’s a hot research area, according to this Atlantic article. Researchers at DARPA, University of New Mexico, George Mason University, Stanford University, Oxford University, University of Göttingen and this Editor’s local City College of New York (CCNY) are hot on the trail. Four areas being investigated are (more…)

Unhappy endings: where even innovation cannot make a difference

This week’s sad news of the death of comedian/film star Robin Williams and his ongoing battles with addiction and depression are the center of this thoughtful article by EIC Veronica Combs in MedCityNews. Even with access to the best care and innovations such as virtual visits, Mr Williams committed suicide. The larger point made is that access and healthcare innovation don’t mean automatic adoption or a positive outcome. Some of those with chronic physical or mental illnesses choose not to change their behaviors, comply with a regimen or even to seek help, much less seek out technology or be a QSer. And some are simply beaten down and depressed by the perpetual Battle of Stalingrad that is chronic disease–ask any diabetic [TTA 5 Apr 2013]. Her conclusion is that though innovation may not help everyone, it doesn’t mean we should not pursue it. And, this Editor would add, for developers to realize that they must make technologies simple and affordable enough–‘tear down that wall’–so that those who won’t access help become fewer. (And, yes, there is a spiritual aspect of care that must be addressed–see VOX Telehealth’s work with HealthCare Chaplaincy Network TTA 25 July.)

Update:  Other factors may have tipped Mr Williams’ depression flare-up. The first (more…)

Depressed? A woman? There’s an app for that.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/T47screen-166×300.png” thumb_width=”130″ /]A new app still under development, Thrive 4-7 (the 7 is the seven dimensions of health) is meant to be used as a supplement to traditional therapy (and presumably medication). The app ‘thrives’ on constant interaction and uses gamification (!), behavioral psychology and influential design to modify the user’s behavior, for instance by sending special messages at times of daily stress. The developers want to connect the app with wearables and peer support groups as well. However, the time of their in-market–best case scenario is a debut at the end of 2014– is dependent on FDA clearance if it’s required–yet to be determined. The business plans, depending on this, may be direct to consumer or sold through health plans, hospitals and employer groups. The therapist you sleep with (MedCityNews) does seem like encouraging an unhealthy behavior, though.