The field of cochlear implant accessibility and care could see major improvements in the coming years thanks to a new software application developed in part by two practicing physicians and former Texas A&M students.
Auditory Implant Initiative, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Andrew de Jong, an otolaryngologist with Texas Ear, Nose, Throat and Allergy in College Station, and Jed Grisel, a physician with Head and Neck Surgical Associates in Wichita Falls, introduced the fully developed HIPPA-secured Encrypted Research Management Evaluation Solution last month.
The application known as HERMES, which collects data and audiograms from cochlear implant patients, allows participating providers and academic researchers to track the progress of patients, share patient information in a secured environment and better understand how to improve implant care and accessibility.
The idea took root in 2013 when Grisel and de Jong founded the AII to help improve cochlear implant care through research, collaboration and outreach.
According to Grisel, 1.2 million individuals suffer from profound hearing loss in the United States.
He said many of these people can benefit from cochlear implants — an electronic medical device that is surgically attached to the ear to help provide a sense of sound to a person — but may not have access to the technology. In fact, Grisel said only about five percent of those individuals actually get the implant.
By analyzing the data submitted to HERMES, AII can now further its mission of improving access to cochlear implants to those in need, he said.
“We are collecting demographic information, surgical information, post-operation information and clinical outcomes,” Grisel said. “We would want to know, for example, what age group would benefit most [from cochlear implants]? Are there certain age groups that don’t do well with an implant? Are there certain regions of the country where people have different levels of access? Do we have ethnic disparities on who’s getting access to implants and what types of patients have hearing loss but don’t get a cochlear implant?”
In addition to research purposes, Grisel said the data can help coordinate standardized care so current patients can experience streamlined treatment no matter how many health centers they go to.
The application is also compatible with Noah, the primary software audiologists in the United States use to program hearing aids, and does not cost the patient to join, he said.
Currently, 14 cochlear implant care centers around the country have integrated HERMES into their practices, ranging from the university-level to community centers.
For more information about HERMES, go to aii-hermes.org.