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Wearable Device to treat chronic pain
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Fast Company 12/17/2015

Ideo Helps Design A Wearable To Treat Chronic Pain

Quell Wearable Pain Relief Technology

More than 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain, a difficult condition to manage for doctors and patients. Working with Ideo, the medical technology company Neurometrix introduced an over-the-counter electrical nerve stimulation device called Quell to help alleviate pain. What the device shows is a meaningful application of wearable technology to a segment of the population that sorely needs innovation, says Dr. Shai N. Gozani, Neurometrix’s CEO.

“Wearables and, more broadly, the digital health umbrella needs to attack chronic disease and not just focus on the healthiest segment of the population,” Gozani says. “You have a lot of technologies and they are, to put it bluntly, ‘afraid’ of the FDA implications of getting into disease. Until the tech companies become consumer medical technology companies, I think it’s going to limit what wearables and digital health can do.”

Neurometrix has been in the medical device business for nearly 20 years but branched into the consumer market in 2015 with the launch of Quell. Specializing in prescription chronic pain management products, the company enlisted Ideo to help reframe its technology for consumers. Quell stimulates nerves on a wearer’s upper calf—the sensation produced by electric shocks doesn’t hurt—which activates a part of the brain and blocks pain signals. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation—known as TENS—has been around for decades, but only through doctors.

“In the prescription market, you meet the requirements of the insurers—they look at cost and replacement time,” Gozani says. “Consumers want products that they’re comfortable wearing, that they would be proud of. They both want relief for chronic pain, but there are different requirements—consumers are willing to pay for innovation, like tying it to a smartphone.”

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