Wearables in Healthcare Pilot Challenge finalist William Younker is aiming for the big time by proposing a solution to recovery for one of the most controversial injuries this year: concussions.
“The idea is to create the world’s first data set, from wearables and smartphone sensors, for concussion recovery,” Younker says. Along with his Cognitive Health LLC team, which includes Younker (the company’s founder), Dr. Robert Cantu (Clinical Professor Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, as well as Cantu’s mentor) and two clinicians from Boston Children’s Brain Injury Center, Younker proposes to use the Misfit Shine to collect data on concussion patients.
“We will track and provide feedback on the four main areas on concussion recovery: sleep, physical activity, cognitive activity and mood,” he says. “The data will enable us to provide patients with a proactive, personalized road to recovery. Based on leading peer reviewed research, the solution will guide patients on a progressive return to baseline activity. Beyond concussions, we believe this data will provide invaluable insights into complementary healthcare issues like PTSD, anxiety, and depression.”
Younker came to this idea as a patient: he suffered a concussion during the biking portion of Ironman Florida, but says he finished the race and shook it off as no big deal.
“The next several months I never felt right,” he remembers. “Daily headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light and noise – you name it, I had it. As a direct result of never healing properly from the concussion, I sustained another bike accident, another broken helmet, another concussion. The next year gave me plenty of time to realize that this injury is much more than no big deal.”
Younker studied up, reading scientific articles for the first time in his life and learning about the gaps in concussion care. Younker had met Dr. Cantu when Younker himself was a patient, but Cantu quickly lent his support as a mentor for Cognitive Health LLC as well. Now, Younker’s Wearables in Healthcare Pilot Challenge submission brings a focus and understanding to a healthcare issue that the CDC and many media organizations have called “a silent epidemic.”
“Concussions cost over $17 billion a year in the US in lost productivity and medical costs,” Younker says, “but the true cost is unknown because we still know so little about the recovery process. We aim to reduce healthcare costs and loss of productivity, but most importantly we plan to better patient outcomes and decrease the chances of patients developing lifelong, adverse problems that can result from improperly treated concussions.”
Younker’s next steps are to conduct a pilot study with patients to compare objective data with symptom load and resolution. Then he hopes to develop evidence-based, data driven guidelines for personalized patient management.
“We plan to work with concussion specialists at the outset and then incorporate those findings into management for the general patient population who are not fortunate enough to see a specialist,” he says.
As for the Wearables live pitch-off at Google Cambridge on Thursday, Younker is confident in his idea and excited to meet other innovators.
“What is there not to be excited about?” he says. “From listening to all of the other great ideas to meeting the judges and getting to present at the Google campus, it should be an exciting night! If we’re fortunate enough to win, the prize will be a great starting point for our next steps and even if we don’t, the event will hopefully help bring more visibility to the invisible issue of concussions.”
You can also register for our first ever MedTALK Boston Networking Night, on May 13th, for similar conversation and collaboration.
Jenni Whalen is the Executive Assistant of Editorial at Upworthy. She was previously MedTech Boston's Managing Editor and has an MS in Journalism from Boston University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University. Whalen has written for Greatist, Boston magazine, AZ Central Healthy Living and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other places. She has also worked as a conference planner, ghost writer, researcher and content developer.
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