Klick Health

Klick Labs Brings Tele-Empathy to Life

VP Klick Labs

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Healthcare companies take research and development very seriously, and so should their commercialization partners. Klick Labs not only offers Klick Health clients a full range of innovation services, but has recently discovered an entirely new field. Join Yan Fossat, VP of Klick Labs, as he shares his enthusiasm for emerging tech, and the Labs’ incredible accomplishment…

One of the most exciting aspects of working for Klick Labs is the uncovering of a new area of research. Our time horizon in the Lab ranges from tomorrow—when we experiment with leading edge technologies like Augmented Reality—all the way to years ahead, when we explore speculative or exponential technologies, such as Computational Physiology or Digital Biomarkers.

In the Lab, our mandate is to solve the problems of tomorrow and inoculate Klick and our clients against the future. This is more than innovation, it is discovery. This spirit of exploration enables us to gain pre-emptive mastery of skills that will become fundamental in the world of digital medicine. Sometimes we don’t just learn an emerging skill—we discover a whole new field! Recently, we uncovered the world of technology-mediated symptom transference, “Tele-Empathy,” and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Through a series of experiments with digitization, encoding and transferring of physiological data, we have developed a system that enhances empathy for patients with movement disorders. Learning empathy is a bit like learning a language. It is hard work and some people are better at it than others. Our new device, SymPulse™ is unique inasmuch as it improves empathy immediately by enabling the user to literally and accurately experience a patient’s symptoms. This is different from a mere immersive experience; this is true symptom transference.

The Revolutionary SymPulseTM Tele-Empathy Device

Sympulse™ is a groundbreaking Proof of Concept that wirelessly records and transmits patient tremors in real time to help foster clinical empathy and better care for the more than 40 million people living with movement disorders in the U.S. alone.

Unlike other inventions that attempt to replicate tremors via mechanical vibrations, the Klick Labs’ SymPulseTM Tele-Empathy Device records continuous electromyogram data from the patient and wirelessly transmits it via Bluetooth to a custom-engineered electrical muscle stimulation armband for non-patients. The patent-pending, experiential device induces involuntary muscle activity, which mimics patient tremors and enables physicians and family members to experience the difficulties of seemingly simple tasks, such as buttoning a shirt or using a mobile phone.

We are extremely encouraged about our work in this area to help make healthcare more patient-centric.


Why Clinical Empathy is Important

Why is empathy so important? Quite simply, empathy helps patients and physicians, has no known side effects, and is much less costly than many other medical interventions.

According to Dr. Jodi Halpern, Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley, “Skillful use of clinical empathy is essential for all three major aspects of effective medical care: accurate diagnosis, treatment adherence, and patient activation…  We need innovative approaches to inculcate empathy in physicians, including exciting new interactive technologies that enable people to experience other people’s symptoms,” said Dr. Halpern, author of From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical Practice, (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Dr. Helen Riess, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Founder of Empathetics, Inc., said, “Improving clinical empathy should be at the forefront of institutional missions and interventions are needed to achieve these critical healthcare goals.” A randomized controlled trial led by Dr. Riess found that, initially, 53% of physicians reported declining levels of patient empathy for several years; whereas only 33% reported increasing levels. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in May 2012, also found that clinical empathy can be taught and can raise patient ratings of their healthcare.


Going Beyond Empathy

Registered Physiotherapist Naomi Casiro believes symptom transmission offers benefits beyond just that of increased empathy. The Vancouver, BC-based clinician who only treats patients affected by Parkinson’s disease, said, “I can use my clinical expertise to analyze movement patterns and try to improve the patient’s capacity to perform daily motor tasks, such as buttoning a shirt or putting on a jacket. However, if I could combine these clinical skills with the experience of actually feeling how the patient moves, my ability to assess the movement challenges and problem-solve the solution would be amplified.”


Future Research: Other disease symptoms, telemedicine and more…

We are currently developing a study to further quantify the boost of empathy produced by Sympulse™. How much is empathy increased and how long does it last? If the theory is right, one could imagine a session with Sympulse™ being equivalent to getting a booster shot of empathy every 12 months.

Using the Internet for remote transmission of symptoms, a feature of future versions of the device, could be used for telemedicine. We envision patients being able to transmit their tremors to physicians anywhere in the world to get more accurate diagnoses and better treatment.

The implications of tele-empathy extend beyond the manipulation of muscle activity. Other types of disease and condition symptoms can be quantified and digitized using wearables with sensors that measure everything from the glucose level of someone’s tears to air flow and blood oxygen saturation levels. As a result, Klick Labs is also exploring symptom transference for diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Like symptoms, treatment could also become digitized and physicians could soon be trying various software versions of drugs on digital models of patient symptoms. If a symptom is a data stream, a drug is a filter that modifies the data just like an echo on a phone line.

This concept of digitally simulating treatments is not as farfetched as it might seem. Similar methods are used in engineering. When constructing a bridge, for example, engineers first build a computer model and use simulated tests to identify the load limits and optimal shape. Similarly, a digital drug could be tested on a digital representation of a patient disease before giving any medication, thereby limiting risk to the patient and potentially offering a more timely or accurate treatment.

With our vast expertise creating Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for the healthcare industry, the Lab can also use VR to create clinical empathy. We can leverage VR to bypass proprioception and simulate a particular gait of a patient with diabetic neuropathy or multiple sclerosis and virtually put other people in that patient’s shoes. Lastly, when a particular disease’s symptoms are not easily transferred, a digital version of synesthesia can be used via virtual reality to covers a type of symptom to another kind of sensory experience.


Partner with Klick Labs

We help life science organizations advance healthcare through the application of emerging concepts and technologies by offering a full range of innovation services, including primary research, ideation, design, prototyping and in-market validation under a Lab as a Service (LaaS) model.

Our mandate is to bring true digital health innovation to market and “connect the dots” between life science and technology industry leaders, disruptive start ups, medical researchers, healthcare professionals, and patients. Our unique approach is enabled through a trans-disciplinary team that includes creative technologists, data scientists, behavioral scientists, electrical engineers, application developers, experience designers, and medical experts. Key areas of focus include digital medicine and physiology, machine learning, mixed reality, natural language processing, and robotics.

Want to keep your company and your brand at the cusp of the latest tech? Want to become fueled by a convergence of creative, technological, and data-driven expertise? Find out more about Klick Labs, and our SymPulseTM Tele-Empathy Device by contacting Yan directly. He can’t wait to talk to you!

More About the Author

Yan Fossat

Yan Fossat is a leading healthcare transformer because he quite literally transforms emerging technologies into innovative solutions that improve patient outcomes. As VP of Klick Labs (Klick Health’s digital innovation hub), Yan and his team work on solving the problems of tomorrow. His team of technologists, engineers, developers, medical animators, and behavioral scientists study the worlds of science, technology, and business to connect the dots, solve important problems, and bring to market Intellectual Property and invaluable solutions for life sciences.

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