Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Health & Wellness, Professional Development, Technology

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About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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