Highmark Interactive’s EQ Active Brain Tracking
By Rob Starr
Many people experience concussions during sports and recreation activities, sometimes with tragic outcomes. Unfortunately, not many people know when they have one, or what the symptoms are.
Only 15 per cent of Canadians can correctly identify the best ways to treat a concussion, and only four in 10 are aware of available concussion tools or resources, according to Statistics Canada.
It’s a big problem among youth who participate in various contact sports.
The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program says ice hockey, rugby and ringette are the sports with the highest proportion of brain injuries among children and youth 5-19 years of age, ranging from 27 per cent to 44 per cent of all injuries that happened while playing them.
A new app launched in January is hoping to improve people’s ability to gain insights into concussions and the often quiet symptoms that follow.
EQ Active Brain Tracking is a mobile gamified neurological testing app from Highmark Interactive. It’s the only one of its kind and is FDA cleared. The software is the product of a collaboration between a wide range of experts including neurosurgeons, machine learning experts and accomplished gaming software developers.
The idea was launched at a meeting in a brick and mortar facility, Highmark Health, according to Highmark’s co-founder Dr. Sanjeev Sharma.
“We always wanted to build a piece of technology that could help us get our hands around the whole concussion epidemic. Then it hit me. We were focused on the experience our patients have in the clinic. After that we don’t see them for two or even four weeks. We needed to have a better understanding of the functional abilities as they’re going about life.”
EQ Active Brain Tracking was designed to fill that gap.
There are different modules for youth in schools, people in their golden years, high-performance sport and a few others. Because there are a number of conditions like stress, sleep deprivation, head trauma, anxiety and drug use that can affect brain functions, the app covers several aspects through visual, balance and cognitive function.
“The overarching goal of the software is to track, monitor and assess brain function,” said Sharma.
The tests included are administered as games. There’s a hockey pylon version and another focusing on throwing a football through a tire. Sharma explains what’s behind these activities.
“What we’re doing is gathering both qualitative and quantitative metrics about how an individuals’ thought function is working on any given day.”
How it works
The various games/tests that participants play provide data scores that provide a starting point that gets compared to population averages. There’s a second set of tests that get run about two weeks later.
“By the time people check-in a third time we know with about 95 per cent certainty what kind of range they should be in,” said Sharma.
Patients can also use this technology to gauge concussion injuries from being active in contact sports.
There’s a big difference between this product and the kind of wellness apps that you can get from the App Store, he added.
The rigorous testing EQ Active Brain Tracking has gone through includes The FDA clearance in America, the CE marking in the European Union, and Medical Device status in Oceania and Canada.
“When the software is downloaded to your local device, it’s effectively converted to a Class 2 Medical device,” he said. “An EKG machine is a comparable Class 2 device.”
The Government of Canada categorizes medical devices used for various treatments, prevention and
even diagnosis of disease. These are categorized into four different classes.
Going forward, there are plans to shift the focus from diagnostic to therapeutic in 2020.