Seizures are fickle things, given there is always limited to no warning and never a convenient time.
In the UK alone an estimated 600,000 people suffer from epilepsy with around 87 new diagnoses made every day. This results in a bulky annual price tag of around £2 billion for the National Health Service.
However, as we gain new advances in technology the possibility of being able to actively sense and predict when a seizure is coming is becoming a very real possibility. Data has become a critical part of our lives and now the data centres could also save our lives too.
MyCareCentric Epilepsy has launched a ‘pioneering project’ to explore this idea, using Microsoft products to monitor health and record data like sleep patterns, exercise, heart rate and temperature.
This information will be then collated with a log of when seizures occur and a patient’s personal medical records to effectively build up a profile, with the goal for Microsoft Azure to ‘learn’ when someone is about to have seizure and warn them in advance.
“Wearable technologies have massive potential to transform the way healthcare is delivered,” says University of Kent research team head Dr Christos Efstratiou.
“Coupled with advanced activity tracking algorithms, we are able to now monitor patients on a day to day basis. This will allow clinicians to better assess the effectiveness of medications, and enhance personalised care.”
Microsoft health and life sciences director Suzy Foster says she is hopeful Azure will be able to provide for these patients.
“This pioneering project has the potential to redefine the delivery of epilepsy care,” Foster says.
“It is so exciting to see how the latest developments in technology are being used to improve individuals’ treatment and quality of life. We are looking forward to the next phase, where our partners use their technology and market presence to roll out applications for other conditions and disease groups.”
Wearables, machine learning, clinical records, and data analysis are some of the technologies part of the MyCareCentric Epilepsy project to share information with patients and medical professionals in real-time. Clinicians can access the findings, which could potentially also include video and audio recordings if a patient gives their consent, 24 hours a day online or via a smartphone app.
With Azure, the group hopes to develop the system to alert medial staff, family and friends when a patient has a seizure, and allow professionals to use the app to provide advice to the person affected.
MyCareCentric Epilepsy was co-funded by Innovate UK and is currently being tested by Poole Hospital and the Dorset Epilepsy Service.
“The novel visualization tools enable us to see critical details at a glance, releasing more time to care. And by using wearables, monitoring and notification technology – combined with secure communication to clinical systems – we are providing patients with an electronically-enabled safety net,” says Dorset Epilepsy Service consultant neurologist and clinical lead Dr Rupert Page.
“This level of direct engagement helps clinicians monitor and understand the nature of someone’s epilepsy and seizures and respond immediately with alterations to drugs, for example. This has significant quality of life benefits for the patient, and cost benefits to the health service by reducing outpatient and emergency department visits, preventing hospital admissions and cutting medication bills.”