Nevada hospital tests EEG headbands, tablet apps for pain management

By Jonah Comstock
04:29 pm
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Southern Hills Hospital in Nevada recently completed a pilot of a technology that used Samsung tablets and a wearable EEG reader to assess patients' pain and to attempt to lessen that pain with distracting content.

The pilot, a collaboration between Samsung, tech company AccendoWave, and Southern Hills, equipped nearly 1,000 ER patients, including adults and children, with Samsung Galaxy tablets, modified using the Samsung Knox toolkit, and EEG reading headbands (while Samsung didn't specify the brand in their release, from the photographs it appears to be an Interaxon Muse headband). The tablet and headband replace the hospital's normal system for reporting patient pain: a 10-point scale accompanied by smiley and frowney faces.

With the EEG technology, the sensor is able to guess at the patient's pain level and present it to them on the screen. The patient can then agree or disagree to arrive at the pain level that's sent to doctors and nurses. The tablet also features a range of video and music content that it then serves up to patients based on their comfort level, as well as their choices. 

"The technology tries to sense the patient's level of discomfort and identify content that relaxes each individual," AccendoWave CEO Martha Lawrence said in a statement. "Then it changes up the content to serve up more of what the patient is really focusing on. The patient can also do a 'thumbs up' and 'thumbs down' to indicate likes or dislikes, so it factors that in as well."

According to Samsung, researchers here aren't just testing the ability of movies and music to distract patients from their pain. Citing a 2012 studythe company notes that there appears to be a physical mechanism whereby distracting patients from pain actually triggers a natural opioid release that reduces pain.

The results of the study were positive. Out of the nearly 1,000 Southern Hills patients who used the technology, 90 percent enjoyed using it, 81 percent said it improved their comfort level, 77 percent felt it accurately understood their level of discomfort, and 87 percent reported that they enjoyed the content they were shown. That said, Southern Hills hopes to take the technology further as time goes on.

"The device has a lot of potential we haven't tapped into because we've really just been integrating it into our processes," Dorita Sondereker, director of emergency services at Southern Hills, said in a statement. "If we keep using this therapy, nurses could monitor the AccendoWave data and see when the patient's pain is increasing, and we could intercept to get pain meds to them sooner."

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