MedRhythms, Health Catalyst to develop music-based therapeutic for stroke survivors

What if the steady beats of music, coupled with personalized neuroscience, could help stroke survivors regain their ability to walk?

That’s what a collaboration between Health Catalyst and MedRhythms aims to accomplish through the development of a new digital therapeutic incorporating sensor data, auditory stimulation and artificial intelligence (AI).

The project is the first for Health Catalyst’s new life science business; the data analytics firm previously focused on providing solutions for clinical care accountability, safety, population health management and financial benchmarking.

MedRhythms, meanwhile, has developed a rhythmic, neurologic rehabilitation therapy that has been shown to improve walking in patients with traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease, according to the company.

It’s not as simple as just listening to your favorite tunes, though. Sensors clipped to each ankle analyze a person’s walking gait and feed the data back into the AI algorithm, which adapts the music over time. It’s similar to interactive music therapies administered in person by a trained specialist, which are tuned to how each person’s brain processes different elements of sound.

Studies have described audio-motor pathways within the area of the brain responsible for movement. Rhythm can prime and enhance these pathways to help increase walking speed and timing, while the music can help rewire the brain as part of a rehabilitation program.

For its part, Health Catalyst will use real-world data and analytic applications to help identify potential patients during clinical development as well as find a place for MedRhythms’ therapy in the clinical workflow, in addition to tracking outcomes and reductions in rehabilitation costs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, with many being left unable to walk or talk. Total care and rehabilitation costs are estimated at $34 billion annually, relying largely on one-on-one physical therapy.

"This partnership comes at a crucial time in the digital therapeutics industry," said Carlos Rodarte, senior vice president of strategy and business development for life sciences at Health Catalyst.

"Several companies in this field have completed or are completing important trials demonstrating the significant clinical impact of true, validated and regulated digital therapeutics, paving the way for an entire new industry in digital health which has disruptive potential globally to deliver rapid, efficient therapies for patients with unmet needs," Rodarte said.

Additionally, the burden of strokes on healthcare systems is expected to increase over the next several years, according to an analysis by GlobalData. Among major markets in Western Europe, the U.S., Japan and China, new cases of acute ischemic stroke are expected to rise 4.4% annually to about 3.7 million per year by 2027 due to an aging population and the growth of other risk factors.