Back pain sufferers brace for relief
December 10, 2019
AT&T Foundry, TMC Innovation Institute and VerteCore collaborate on affordable, mobile decompression solution for instant spine relief
By Jessica Autrey, Innovation Lead, AT&T Foundry in Houston
They say necessity is the mother of invention. That’s certainly true for Paul Leake, Founder and CEO of VerteCore Technologies, who endured 15 years of chronic pain after injuring his back in the U.S. Army. Like millions of other back-pain sufferers, Paul quickly learned that effective treatment can be expensive, elusive and unsustainable. He decided it was time to make treatment more accessible. “I knew I wasn’t alone in seeking relief from the chronic pain and freedom from the limits that chronic pain imposed,” he said. Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and affects more people in the U.S. than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined1.
Paul introduced VerteCore Lift as the first mobile spinal decompression device for back-pain relief. The Class 1, FDA-approved medical device is a more affordable and convenient solution for many forms of back pain. The adjustable brace works by decompressing the intervertebral discs, which reduces pressure on the spinal nerve column and helps the body heal without surgery or pain medication. Plus, its comfortable, sleek design allows users to wear it under clothing and continue normal daily routines while receiving spinal decompression therapy.
Making a great device even better
Despite the revolutionary nature of the VerteCore Lift, users initially were unable to gauge the exact pressure applied by the device. It was difficult to ensure they were consistently applying proper decompression for their injuries. It also meant doctors lacked a measurable way to prescribe and assess the effectiveness of specific treatment protocols for their patients.
In fall 2018, while participating in the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Innovation Institute’s TMCx accelerator program for medical devices, VerteCore was introduced to our team at the AT&T Foundry. After an ideation session, we began formulating an answer to their therapy monitoring needs.
We knew our solution must be simple, durable and small enough to easily integrate into the device design – itself discreet and lightweight. Collaborating with VerteCore, we developed a cellularly connected “smart” attachment (about the size of a deck of cards) and worked within the device form factor to integrate a force transducer, a specialized sensor capable of measuring pounds of pressure. Since the device is cellularly connected, it can be used wherever and whenever a patient needs to use the device. The measurements during their session are sent directly to their doctor to help track the patient’s device usage and adherence to the prescribed treatment protocol.
To enable doctors to view data from their patients, we also developed a mobile application and a web dashboard. These tools provide health care providers with clinically actionable data to ultimately help them prescribe care plans using the VerteCore Lift and track their patients’ progress remotely.
The bulk of the collaboration focused on augmenting the existing manual design of the VerteCore Lift to support the added capabilities. However, we also worked together on an early prototype for a new version of the device. This new prototype automatically adjusts the device settings based on the patient’s care plan and progress, versus requiring manual adjustment.
Shaping the future of health ccare
“Through programs like our TMCx health care accelerator, we are shaping the future of health care by connecting promising innovators with the abundant resources of the Texas Medical Center and partners like AT&T Foundry.”
Tom Luby, Director of TMC Innovation
The VerteCore collaboration would not have been possible without the help of TMC Innovation Institute. They quickly identified the VerteCore Lift as a simple and effective alternative to traditional back pain treatment and connected the AT&T Foundry and VerteCore teams.
The VerteCore spinal decompression device has already helped hundreds of people overcome back pain and the company has a strong foundation for growth. VerteCore’s product is cleared for direct-to-consumer sales and the company is cultivating a growing network of resellers and distributors.
The VerteCore story exemplifies the life-changing impact of innovation catalyzed by TMC Innovation and AT&T Foundry. Together we will continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and always search for new and innovative ways to bring health care into the future.