In order to improve quality of care and patient satisfaction, especially in patients with chronic conditions, there needs to be improvements on portable medical devices that can track, encrypt, and send results to healthcare providers, while also allowing the patient to treat the condition remotely. Therefore, I am currently creating a portable rehabilitative device for cerebral palsy patients to eat independently without a caregiver. I am looking to use low frequency vibrations on specific points of the jaw in order to reduce spasticity and tension, therefore reducing dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).
The majority of individuals with Cerebral Palsy, 93%, will experience feeding difficulties. Since Cerebral Palsy results in impairment of muscle groups, facial muscles can be affected. The facial muscles are one of the strongest muscle groups in the body. Impairment hampers a child’s ability to chew, suck, or swallow, thereby creating a high risk for undernourishment, failure to thrive, malnutrition, growth delay, and digestive difficulties. The following conditions are common in those with Cerebral Palsy:
86% experience oral-motor dysfunction
77% are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux
74% report chronic constipation
60% present with swallowing disorders
32% report abdominal pain
Many do not consider the collateral implications of oral impairment, such as those listed above and more. Furthermore, patients can often face anxiety and depression due to lack of confidence and autonomy. By providing sensory stimulation and repeated motion through a meal assistance device that utilizes biomechanical stimulation techniques, excessive muscle tension can be managed, therefore strengthen their individual feeding capabilities. This is especially crucial for children, as this device can greatly improve their home and school life. Furthermore, the sooner they begin treatment, the better the outcome will be and the condition will be more manageable.
This device could potentially be synced to a mobile app that would allow the patient to monitor his or her progress over time, and would have the option of sending the results to their healthcare provider through encryption. Through this, healthcare will be more engaging and personal for both the patient and the provider, especially in a chronic condition or disability.
There is an estimated 764,000 individuals in the US with cerebral palsy, so this product has a significant market size. This product could be expanded to other conditions that involve oral impairment or other feeding difficulties (Parkinson’s comes to mind); however, the main focus is on cerebral palsy for the time being.
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