News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Australia first to secure funding of digital health platform for neurology patients

Health Industry Hub | November 2, 2022 |

MedTech News: From 1 November 2022, a new MBS item has been introduced to fund the remote programming of the neurostimulator for deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia.

The final recommendation to list this service by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) occurred in September 2021 and was approved for funding on the MBS in the 2022-23 Budget. This new item will allow the service to be performed remotely and is relevant to neurologists, neurosurgeons or highly specialised nurses under the supervision of a neurologist or neurosurgeon.

A remote interface for the Abbott DBS and SCS systems (Infinity/Proclaim, St. Jude Medical) was developed by leveraging the existing multi-component technological platform. Clinicians can use the interface on their iPad CP to perform programming and analysis as a telehealth service. The iOS-based remote interface integrates with DBS or SCS systems through existing in-built Bluetooth communication between the PC and the IPG. Mobile device camera and microphone are used from both end points to establish a live audio-video conference and enable clinicians and patients to interact effectively during a remote therapy session.

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Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) Professor Peter Silburn AM said his team, together with Neurosciences Queensland and Abbott Neuromodulation developed a remote care platform which allows patients to access treatment from anywhere in the world.

“We have shown that it is possible to minimise disruption to patients’ and carers’ lifestyles by increasing accessibility to the service, saving time and money,” Professor Silburn said.

“There are no cures for many of these conditions which often require life-long treatment and care, so for those people the device would be a game-changer.”

In the patient interviews conducted in the study, 58% of the patients reported having to travel over one hour for their programming visits. All of them reported owning a smartphone or a tablet, and 92% reported having access to Wi-Fi at home. About 81% of the patients reported experience with video-conferencing in the past and 86% reported that a remote care solution would be appealing for either some or all their visits.

According to Abbott Medical, Australia is the first country in the world to reimburse clinicians fully for remote therapy at the same level as in person.

Professor Silburn said the system also fostered increasingly personalised treatment and data-driven clinical decisions, which could improve patient care.

“During the study, we established the platform safety, security, usability and effectiveness and optimised its features using patient feedback in a biodesign process,” Professor Silburn stated.

“In the initial weeks of a limited market release, we conducted 858 remote care sessions and maintained a robust and high success rate.”

While the QBI team started working on this digital health solution before COVID-19, the pandemic elevated the need for remote care platforms, particularly for older people and those living in remote areas with increased travel difficulties. 

“Through the pandemic patients have become more familiar with telemedicine and far more willing to adapt to platforms that connect them remotely to their healthcare teams,” Professor Silburn said.

“As we discover more about the biomarkers in brain-related disorders, we will refine neuromodulation systems to improve treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, and Tourette’s syndrome, to name a just a few,” Professor Silburn said.

This digital health platform for remote neuromodulation systems secured TGA regulatory approval and launched in Australia in October 2021. The researchers are confident the technology could be adapted for many other conditions in the future.

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