Harnessing innovative neurotechnologies to provide better urgent care at Banner Health


For Ban­ner Health, one of the largest non-prof­it health sys­tem in the Unit­ed States, find­ing ways to make health care eas­i­er and bet­ter for our patients is at the root of every­thing we do. That’s why we are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant invest­ments into the dig­i­tal health and neu­rotech space, try­ing to answer some com­mon pain points.

Let me give you an example.

Last year, Ban­ner Urgent Care turned to an inno­v­a­tive device, Brain­Scope One, to pro­vide bet­ter care and to help save patients mon­ey and time, as it helps clin­i­cians iden­ti­fy trau­mat­ic brain injuries and concussions.

This is an area of grow­ing con­cern. Sta­tis­tics by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) show that there were approx­i­mate­ly 2.5 mil­lion vis­its to emer­gency depart­ments for trau­mat­ic brain injuries in 2014—an increase of 54% from 2006. Of those, rough­ly 812,000 were for children.

While the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty already has sev­er­al meth­ods to diag­nose con­cus­sion and struc­tur­al brain injuries, Brain­Scope One is prov­ing to be a valu­able and com­ple­men­tary tool to guide treat­ing physi­cians on the most appro­pri­ate appro­pri­ate next step. The device helps answer two impor­tant ques­tions quickly:

1. Has the patient suf­fered struc­tur­al brain damage?

2. Has the patient suf­fered a func­tion­al injury to the brain—a concussion?

The sweet spot for BrainScope in urgent care

My col­league Daniel Bates, MD, MS, who is Ban­ner Health’s physi­cian lead at the Ban­ner Urgent Care clin­ics in North­ern Col­orado, explains how a com­put­er­ized tomog­ra­phy, or CT, scan is the gold stan­dard in deter­min­ing if there has been struc­tur­al dam­age to the brain … but not every case of head trau­ma should have a CT scan upfront.

Grow­ing high-qual­i­ty research includes a 2016 study high­light­ing the sur­pris­ing fact that 91% of patients receiv­ing a CT scan didn’t have struc­tur­al dam­age. Yet, 84% of emer­gency depart­ment vis­its across the coun­try for a head injury lead to a CT scan.

The advan­tage of Brain­Scope is to sep­a­rate out patients that are low and high risk for a bleed­ing com­pli­ca­tion,” Dr. Bates says. “This allows us to pre­vent unneed­ed CT scans in low-risk patients, which involve sig­nif­i­cant radi­a­tion expo­sure and expense, as well as time spent in the ER.”

Reading and analyzing electrical signals in the brain

The brain uses elec­tri­cal impuls­es to com­mu­ni­cate. When you touch some­thing hot, elec­tri­cal impuls­es trav­el through your nerves to inform your brain there is a prob­lem. Then, the brain sends new sig­nals to the mus­cles, telling them to pull your hand away. This hap­pens almost instantly.

Brain­Scope One uses these elec­tri­cal sig­nals to iden­ti­fy prob­lems after a head trau­ma. Because struc­tur­al dam­age will influ­ence how these elec­tri­cal sig­nals trav­el, it lets clin­i­cians deter­mine if there is a risk of struc­tur­al dam­age, explains Dr. Bates.

Brain­Scope works by obtain­ing a mea­sure of elec­tri­cal activ­i­ty in the brain—an elec­troen­cephalo­gram,” he says. “This data is then inter­pret­ed by the machine, and the clin­i­cian is giv­en a risk pre­dic­tion for seri­ous injury.”

Dr. Bates explains Brain­Scope One mea­sures an EEG-based brain func­tion index too, which clin­i­cians can use to deter­mine if the patient has suf­fered a con­cus­sion. “Con­cus­sions, them­selves, do not result in any iden­ti­fi­able changes on CT scan; they will, how­ev­er, cause changes in the brain’s elec­tric activ­i­ty, which is what Brain­Scope detects and analyzes.”

And the process is eas­i­er and less intru­sive than it may sound. Patients receiv­ing a Brain­Scope test at a Ban­ner Urgent Care clin­ic will have elec­trodes attached to the fore­head using an adhe­sive. These elec­trodes are then con­nect­ed to a small device about the size of a smart­phone. Best of all, the test is com­plete­ly pain­less, and free of radiation.

How innovation helps improve the Continuum of Care

In this exam­ple, the use of Brain­Scope One can ben­e­fit patients in three dif­fer­ent ways:

  1. Lim­it­ing radi­a­tion. A patient is exposed to radi­a­tion from a CT scan only if the Brain­Scope iden­ti­fies them as being at high risk of brain bleeds and struc­tur­al damage.
  2. Faster care. Urgent care facil­i­ties tend to have less wait time than emer­gency depart­ments, and Brain­Scope takes sig­nif­i­cant­ly less time that of a CT scan.
  3. Low­er cost. Urgent care clin­ics usu­al­ly have low­er costs than emer­gency depart­ments, and the patient may not need to vis­it one and pay for a CT scan.

Even if the length of a test depends on the num­ber of assess­ments run, Dr. Bates says a test usu­al­ly takes five min­utes to set up and five min­utes to run.

It also gives clin­i­cians a more objec­tive assess­ment of con­cus­sion that can­not be ‘gamed,’” he says. This is an impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for par­ents of young ath­letes who often feel the pres­sure to return to the game soon­er than they should.

In sum­ma­ry, while there are no per­fect tools for diag­nos­ing a con­cus­sion or trau­mat­ic brain injury, inno­v­a­tive and non­in­va­sive neu­rotech­nolo­gies like Brain­Scope can aug­ment the diag­nos­tic toolk­it at the dis­pos­al of clin­i­cians and urgent care clin­ics, help­ing us all pro­vide faster, safer, and more cost-effi­cient care.

Alexan­dra More­house is a top exec­u­tive with Ban­ner Health, one of the nation’s largest non­prof­it health sys­tems and one of the spon­sors of the 2019 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit. She serves as Chief Mar­ket­ing Offi­cer, but her role extends deeply into patient/customer expe­ri­ence lead­er­ship. Before she joined Ban­ner Health in 2015, she was Chief Brand Evan­ge­list for Kaiser Per­ma­nente. She encour­ages you to learn more about Ban­ner Urgent Care and about Brain­Scope.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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