In the United States today there are about 3 million people with some form of epilepsy, a medical condition that produces seizures affecting mental and physical functions. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures they are generally considered to have epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, which estimates direct and indirect costs associated with the condition at about $15.5 billion in the US each year.
"Ten percent of epilepsy patients have a severe case. That means about 300,000 people in the US have severe cases with some of them continuously having seizures. They need 7-by-24 monitoring," Sam Cinquegrani, Founder, President and CEO of Wave Technology Group told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview. "Severity is often worse for children than adults. And no one seems to know why."
Cinquegrani and his team at Wave hope to help researchers unlock some of the mysteries behind epilepsy while also helping patients and caregivers manage seizures.
Wave's technology aims to allow users to live normal lives thanks to real-time EEG monitoring, smartphones, GPS location monitoring and other monitoring tools the company co-developed with its partners at the University of Chicago Epilepsy Center. Wave's system may notify the patient or a caregiver about the current condition and could alert emergency personnel if a seizure is detected.
"Unfortunately, there are only about 100 epilepsy centers in the country," Cinquegrani said. "Each has maybe a dozen or so beds, so best case: About 1,000 patients with epilepsy can be monitored concurrently." That's 1,000 out of 300,000 people with severe cases of epilepsy, or about 1,000 out of the total 3 million Americans living with epilepsy.
"If we could get 20,000 users on our monitoring system, we could deliver our monitoring service for about $1,500 a year," Cinquegrani said. "The cost of one night stay at the hospital is typically a few thousand dollars."
Cinquegrani said Wave plans to sell its application as a service and charge an annual subscriber fee so users don't have to worry about devices breaking down. Wave expects to handle the monitoring, too.
"Our technology could serve so many more than can be served today with 100 centers," Cinquegrani said. "This technology can lower the cost of providing healthcare to these patients at a [price point] that is unheard of -- that is our goal."
Cinquegrani believes that research into epilepsy will be greatly advanced if a larger number of patients could be monitored concurrently while being able to go about their daily lives.
"Today we cannot detect when a seizure is about to occur," he said. "Our goal is to get to the point where we could tell a driver to stop and pull over. Right now everything we can do is just a reaction after it happens, but we can react quicker. Seizures can be fatal, especially for children."
Cinquegrani expects his team's device to begin field tests and the 510(k) FDA approval process in the next six to twelve months. The device is very much a mobile one: All of the intelligence for Wave's device will be running from the user's smartphone. What's more, Wave expects the finished device to be "two-thirds the size of a business card."
"The idea is: Make it so small that a kid could wear it under a baseball cap," Cinquegrani said.