Artefact Group’s Dialog is a detection and alert system, data gathering app and biometric tracking device all rolled into one. It predicts seizures, alerts bystanders and helps manage all stages of epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a group of complex, long-term and unpredictable neurological disorders characterized by seizures that are recurring and have no immediate underlying cause. It is the third most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s and stroke and about 1% of people worldwide or 65 million suffer from it with nearly 80% of the cases occurring in developed countries.
Epilepsy cannot be cured but seizures can be minimized, controlled and managed with medication in most cases. However, the unpredictability of the seizures and the complexity of triggers that cause them make life difficult for epileptics.
Many existing solutions largely focus on detection, alerts or data journaling to help manage the disorder but none of them address the whole experience of living with a disorder as multifarious and misunderstood as epilepsy.
Now, a new wearable design concept called Dialog, unveiled by the Seattle-based Artefact Group, wishes to change all that by not only enabling patients to better understand their condition but also better manage it in a comprehensive manner.
"We were struck by how challenging it is to live with epilepsy," says Matthew Jordan, the leader of the project at Artefact. "The condition is complex, unpredictable, and misunderstood. The people we talked to told us again and again--they live in permanent anxiety, not knowing when a seizure will start and how that single event could change their life forever, both physically but also the relationships with the people around them."
Dialog consists of a smart wearable patch and an accompanied smartphone app. The patch contains a thermometer, accelerometer, hydration sensor, pulse oximeter, pressure sensor and a microphone and can be worn on the wrist or attached on the skin under the clothes. The device communicates with the app using Bluetooth technology.
The user would manually enter data about observable symptoms, triggers, thresholds, events and recent activities. The app would then combine this with other key biometric and environmental data picked up from its sensors to identify the early signs of seizures. It would then alert the user so that he or she could go to a safer place or take appropriate preventive actions to deal with the seizures.
When seizures occur, the app would record the time, duration and other related data. During a sustained seizure, it would notify the nearby first responders and give them instructions on how to help the epileptic individual during the emergency.
The app would also send automatic alerts to the user’s friends and family members and show the current location of the user on a map. After a seizure, the app would display the key contextual data to reorient the user to fill in any cognitive gaps from the event.
Dialog is only a concept at this point but its design approach to the wearable has attracted praise from the likes of “Wired” magazine and “Fastcodesign”. “At Artefact, we think that there’s an important opportunity to apply design thinking to medical devices to create innovations that improve patent experiences and health care outcomes,” Artefact spokeswoman Emilia Palaveeva said.
What differentiates Dialog from other epilepsy-management devices is that users can communicate with it via wearable patch itself in addition to the app interface. Users can squeeze the device to trigger the pressure sensor to initiate an emergency call when in the middle of a seizure. A double tap allows them to register an aura, the sensation that comes before a seizure. They can record their moods by simply tracing a smiley or a frownie on the patch. The patch also sends vibration alerts to users to remind them to take medications.
"Our goal with Dialog is to show that when you take a user-centered approach and apply design thinking and innovation to a complex medical problem, you can come up with an experience that is much more human-centered than what people with chronic conditions have access to today," Jordan says. "Whether designing a device or a service, we hope to inspire companies to pursue a much more human-centered approach in health care."
“We saw a huge opportunity with a condition like epilepsy, both because it’s under-served by recent technology innovations but also because it’s really complex, and we like tackling hard challenges,” Palaveeva said. “New technologies like miniature biometric and environmental sensors, low-energy draw displays and flexible printed circuit boards inspired the company to think about how a product could make managing and living with complex conditions easier.”
The company plans to validate the concept in the next few months by creating prototypes and further improve the user experience by interacting with epilepsy patients, family caregivers and clinicians.