E4 – Digital Health the Missing Partner in Pain Management?

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We interview Martha Lawrence, Chief Executive Officer of AccendoWave, discussing how technology has the promise to reduce pain for patients as an alternative to opioids. AccendoWave's system assesses patient discomfort levels using EEG technology.
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“With 17,000 hospital patients having used AccendoWave, it’s become a clinically validated opioid alternative. Our technology solution gives patients a sense of how they might be feeling based on their brain waves.” Martha Lawrence, CEO AccendoWave


Guest Speaker
Martha Lawrence , CEO, AccendoWave
Martha is an operationally-oriented healthcare executive with more than 25 years of experience in leadership, management, sales, marketing, and managed care with leading national and international organized health systems including Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).

This interview was originally published as a podcast. The audio is no longer available, but you can read the transcript below. For updates on our newly released content, visit our Insight Subscription page.

Explore Other Interviews in This Series

E1 – The Role of Technology in Chronic Disease Management
E2 – Telehealth Technology Improving Patient Access?
E3 – The Future of Technology in Community Hospitals


Katherine: AccendoWave, as I understand it, distracts patients from their pain using brain waves to identify visual and audio content that is customized to individual patient preferences. Can you tell me more about how this works?

Martha: AccendoWave monitors a patient’s brainwaves and distracts them at a primal level. Studies have shown that brainwave activity becomes active even before a person can process what they are seeing or hearing. AccendoWave utilizes ful- spectrum brain analysis and deep learning algorithms to monitor discomfort and actively distract patients. The results speak for themselves. With over 17,000 patients, AccendoWave has been proven to make patients feel more comfortable.

From our initial pilot:

  • 91% say they enjoyed using AccendoWave
  • 83% say that the technology makes them feel more comfortable in the hospital
  • 76% say that AccendoWave understood how they were feeling—their discomfort/pain and their nausea
  • 87% say that AccendoWave understood the content they wanted to see

Katherine: Martha, I noticed that part of your mission as a company is to minimize human suffering. For many people, it’s a difficult leap to go from digital health to human suffering. What does it mean to you?

Martha: Many patients in our hospitals today struggle to convey their feelings of discomfort to our clinical staff. We ask them to rate their discomfort/pain on a scale of 1–10 or point at a pain scale on the wall. In addition, when patients can’t communicate with us and tell us their discomfort/pain level, we just stare at them and guess. We try to make educated guesses, but that is the state of the art in our hospitals today. It is a bit shocking with all of the technology in hospitals—that is our tool box for pain. We think we can do better with a technology solution that provides patients with a sense of how they might be feeling based on their brain waves and then distract them from their discomfort.

Two of my favorite patient stories are:

  • A pediatric patient. Of course, young children can’t tell us their level of discomfort. The mother of the patient told us that the child used AccendoWave and could not remember why they were in the emergency room.
  • Another adult patient was on the floors. She actually took a selfie while using the AccendoWave technology and said she loved this technology and that it really understood how she was feeling. She then went online and found a Samsung and AccendoWave article and posted her picture and her comments using the technology.

We have had so many stories like these.

Katherine: Pain management has certainly been in the news recently, with President Trump turning considerable attention to the statistics and impact on lives of opioid abuse. PCORI has recently extended their investment in this area as well, as they are searching for more alternative clinical strategies for reducing/eliminating opioid use while managing pain and strategies used to limit dose escalation. Do you see this as an opportunity for digital health to have a seat in these discussions? How big of an impact could it have?

Martha: 83% of the 17,000 patients stated it made them feel more comfortable. Let’s take a second to look at that. 83% of patients in a clinical setting felt that technology helped them feel more comfortable. That is equivalent to the effectiveness rating of Vicodin … with no side affects. As an industry, we need to embrace a multi-modal pain approach instead of just reaching for the newest pill in our medicine toolbox.

Yes, we see digital health as having an opportunity to be very impactful, and we see AccendoWave as an important solution in this opioid national emergency. With 17,000 patients having used AccendoWave in a hospital setting, it’s become a clinically validated opioid alternative. The truth is that, in our hospitals, we don’t use some very good clinically validated opioid alternatives. They don’t scale, they are expensive, and they are risky—things like acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage therapy. AccendoWave is inexpensive, it scales, and it has no risk for the hospital. We see this technology as having a broad usage and impact in our hospitals.

Katherine: What are the hurdles to using this type of technology more broadly?

Martha: A cost-effectiveness study would validate a third value proposition. We have already validated AccendoWave as an impactful patient satisfaction/patient experience solution that causes HCAHPS scores to soar and as a clinically validated opioid alternative. But you can’t boil the ocean out of the gate. As AccendoWave is positioned as a Patient Satisfaction Solution – we started there and are adding value propositions and data validation as our customers guide us.

Katherine: As we think about the economic benefit for different stakeholders in the market. Can you share two sentences on what you see as the primary opportunity for the main stakeholders?

Martha: For hospitals, soaring HCAHPS scores are of definite value. The average department score has increased 5–8 points, and we have seen some departments increase more than 10 points—even really tough floors like the medical floor.

Life sciences companies have an interest in using our technology as part of clinical trials and as a differentiation. It’s clear that the cost of clinical trials needs to be reduced, and AccendoWave offers an ability to reach a large patient population in a cost-effective way. We have the ability to provide unique discomfort data that is not available elsewhere.

For health plans, we have the ability to offer an alternative to opioid medications. Reducing the cost of care is important to health plans,  as is the ability to demonstrate the reduction in cost of care. Also, as we currently provide pain measurement data to hospitals, we think this feature of measuring discomfort and pain will be attractive to health plans as they compare drugs on their formulary.

Our hospital customers are analyzing both a quantitative ROI and a qualitative ROI. They are correlating their HCAHPS score improvement with their AccendoWave data, using the Press Ganey calculator, and they are reviewing post-care phone calls, surveys, and AccendoWave Daily Rounding Logs. And of course they have noticed that patients are trying to buy the technology from the hospital, so that has definitely gotten their attention.

Katherine: What’s the main barrier you face in implementing AccendoWave?

Martha: Often, hospital workflows are a barrier, but this is where being a former hospital executive has been very helpful. We understood the product–market fit and workflows and how to minimize the impact on hospital clinical staff so that we have as light a touch as possible—and if you look at the survey data from our hospital clinical staff, the clinical staff are huge fans (85–89% like AccendoWave, think it is easy to use, and want the technology to expand in the hospital). This has been a meaningful reason why we have moved from starting in two departments to being on every floor of the hospital and have become an enterprise solution. I think a bigger barrier for implementation has been the hospital buying cycle, and I am hopeful that new solutions like Lucro will be impactful in helping hospitals make better decisions faster.

Katherine: Thank you, Martha. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today and specifically for sharing your thoughts on how AccendoWave and technologies like this can help in reducing pain for patients both in the hospital setting and other settings as well … and for talking with us about the larger implications of reducing pain through digital health.

Martha: Thank you, Katherine. Good to be here.

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