NEWS | April 9, 2021

New remote patient-care technology assists patients using neuromodulation therapy

‘Virtual Clinic’ allows patients to communicate with doctors and receive new stimulation treatment

(SACRAMENTO)

The Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Program at UC Davis Health has a new tool to treat patients receiving neuromodulation therapy for movement disorders. Abbott’s NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic is a first-of-its-kind remote patient care system. UC Davis Health is the first hospital in Northern California and among the first 10 in the United States to offer NeuroSphere to its patients. 

DBS Program Director Laura Sperry using the NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic.  DBS Program Director Laura Sperry using the NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic.

The neurology team launched the virtual clinic this week to meet with patients and remotely prescribe new treatment settings for their DBS devices. 

“This represents the next step in telehealth. It allows us to have a more comprehensive appointment with our patients, where we are not limited to just audio and video interactions but can actually adjust their DBS devices,” said Kia Shahlaie, professor of neurological surgery and the surgical director for the program. 

Deep Brain Stimulation is an established treatment for people with movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease and essential tremor. First approved by the FDA in 1997, the treatment can control abnormal brain activity and improve motor symptoms. 

The departments of Neurology and Neurological Surgery collaborate on the DBS Program. They help patients maintain their quality of life with a surgically implanted, adjustable neurostimulator that is sometimes referred to as a “brain pacemaker.” 

Following DBS surgery, patients are required to have frequent follow-up visits to check the device and adjust settings. 

“Every patient is unique and responds uniquely to stimulation. Finding the optimal settings for our patients is a very important part of Deep Brain Stimulation,” said Shahlaie. 

Multiple follow-up visits can be challenging for some patients. “We have patients from all over northern California and Nevada. We have elderly patients who no longer drive,” said Laura Sperry, DBS program director. “With this new technology, almost everything we can do with them in the clinic, we can now do virtually in their homes. This will allow us to provide more seamless patient care.” 

“This represents the next step in telehealth. It allows us to have a more comprehensive appointment with our patients, where we are not limited to just audio and video interactions but can actually adjust their DBS devices.”

— Kia Shahlaie

Patients initiate the virtual connection with their health care provider via a secure in-app video chat.  An integrated remote programming feature is available as well. 

“We have patients who need DBS but don’t get the surgery because they are not able to go back and forth and have the necessary visits. Now, they can be anywhere as long as they are connected to Wi-Fi and using the virtual platform,” said Lin Zhang, a clinical professor of neurology and medical director of the DBS Program. 

Patients with the Abbott DBS will need to download the app to use the program. Sperry’s goal is to have all patients on the new platform, even if they still plan to come into the clinic. “There may be times that something unexpected comes up, like a fall or a visit to the ER. We can assess whether there is an issue with their device,” said Sperry. 

The Deep Brain Stimulation Program was established at UC Davis Health in 2011. The highly experienced, multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses and researchers utilize state-of-the-art technologies combined with compassionate care to provide the most current and effective treatments for patients. The Abbott Infinity Deep Brain Stimulation device is one of the three DBS devices used in the Deep Brain Stimulation Program. The other devices are the Medtronic Activa and Percept DBS Systems and the Boston Scientific Vercise DBS System.