Abbott updates app-based neuromodulation platform with remote programming

Abbott announced today that it has updated NeuroSphere, its app-driven neuromodulation therapy platform, with remote programming capabilities that will allow patients to speak with and receive adjustments from their provider via a cellular or WiFi connection.

The NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic was recently approved by the FDA and is now available within the Abbott patient controller app for use with Abbott’s Infinity DBS System for Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor, the Proclaim XR SCS System for chronic pain and the Proclaim DRG Neurostimulation System for chronic pain in lower limbs due to the complex regional-pain syndrome of causalgia, the medical device company said.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

Abbott said the Virtual Clinic enables a secure connection between a patient and practitioner using the corresponding clinician programmer app. With this, patients can discuss the chronic pain and movement disorder neuromodulation treatments with their doctor directly within their controller app, and the provider can subsequently prescribe new stimulation settings from afar through the virtual system.

The company said these capabilities would extend the reach of neuromodulation therapies to individuals who live in rural areas, often need to delay care until an appropriate adjustment can be made or otherwise would have difficulty accessing specialist services.

“Often, patients must be off their medication overnight, so that their treatments can be adjusted properly, which can make it difficult for a patient to travel to their specialist,” Dr. Drew Falconer, director of Inova Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center, said in a statement provided by Abbott. “With NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic, patients can receive stimulation settings from their physicians in real time and remotely via cloud and Bluetooth-based technology, which is something we have never been able to do before.” 

Remote programming is also a boon during the time of COVID-19, when in-person care is often being postponed due to limited openings and risks of disease exposure. Of particular note is temporary telehealth reimbursement through Medicare, which Abbott said NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic will receive at least until the end of the public health emergency.

“A decade ago, we started evaluating the hurdles that patients had to overcome to receive neuromodulation treatment, and we have been working ever since to find a better way to connect providers and patients – with the goal of empowering patients to decide how to access the care they need,” Keith Boettiger, vice president of neuromodulation at Abbott, said in a statement. “We are continuing to make these kinds of investments and working with regulatory authorities to make these telehealth changes permanent, as we believe that patients should be able to receive the care they need, regardless of whether they can make it physically to the doctor’s office.”

THE LARGER TREND

It was only half a year ago that Abbott launched its patient controller app as a user-friendly replacement for the separate devices patients would need to self-manage their neuromodulation treatments. This approach not only cut down on the number of devices a patient needed to carry around, but still used third-party services to communicate with the provider (a statement within the original announcement for the app’s FDA-approval referenced Apple’s FaceTime app).

More broadly, the newest features and their accompanying reimbursement coverage are also the latest the industry’s and government’s support of moving care outside of the hospital throughout the pandemic. Notable examples of the latter include the FDA expanding the use of connected vital sign monitors to include remote care, and CMS’ “Acute Hospital Care at Home program” and expanded “Hospitals Without Walls” initiatives.

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