New Hampshire Company Focuses on Helmet Accessories to Further Success of NIV Treatment
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Now that helmet-based ventilation is becoming more accepted and available throughout the medical communities fighting COVID-19, one company, Charged Concepts, is working on developing accessories to further enhance the capabilities of helmet-based treatments.
Charged Concepts, Inc., led by biomedical engineer and CEO Wayne Penn, is a global multidisciplinary research and design firm based in Nashua, New Hampshire. While its past projects range from phone charging systems to educational toys, the company’s main focus – and strength – lies in the medical field.
Speakers: Wayne Penn, Charged Concepts; Aurika Savickaite, HelmetBasedVentilation.com;
Evan Weinberg, Saigon South International School Educator; Travis Teague, Developer Growth Lead Helium Concepts.
The Charged Concepts team features a diverse blend of engineers, physicians, nurses, industrial designers, and regulatory experts who collaborate to identify unmet challenges in the medical field, define their scopes, and develop innovative solutions. The team defines a truly “charged” concept as one that can be transformed into impactful programs, technologies, and initiatives.
Since March, the Charged Concepts team has been developing important technologies that will complement and integrate with the helmet-based ventilation system, starting with a monitoring and alarm suite for the helmets.
“Alarms play a very big role in a hospital, and are a very important part of the workflow,”
said Aurika Savickaite, RN, MSN, and co-founder of HelmetBasedVentilation.com. In both ICU and non-ICU settings, medical teams rely on sensors, audible alarms, and visible alarms to manage and monitor patient care. In the busy environment of a hospital, nurses are mostly caring for more than one patient at a time. Alarms, triggered by sensors monitoring factors such as patient vitals, medication deliveries, and environmental conditions, keep medical personnel aware of the urgency of patient needs and enable faster responses to emergency situations.
The monitoring and alarm suite under development by the Charged Concepts team will feature sensors to monitor flow rates, temperature, pressure, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels in the helmets, as well as calculate the fraction of inspired oxygen (FiO2) from air and oxygen mixing. Integrated software will trigger alarms when these conditions move outside of the intended ranges for treatment. Conveniently, the team’s monitoring and alarm suite can be added onto conventionally-available helmet-based ventilation systems without any physical modifications to the helmet.
The team aims to create a streamlined tool that can quickly answer critical questions about treatment – What is the pressure inside the helmet? What is the oxygen concentration? Has carbon dioxide concentration reached a level that could be harmful to the patient? – giving the health provider team the information they need to monitor how the treatment is progressing and make better decisions for the patient.
“We want to have the computers do the work of monitoring these factors during treatment, so the medical personnel can focus on the care of the patient,”
said Charged Concepts team member and educator Evan Weinberg, who teaches engineering and technology at Saigon South International School in Vietnam. As part of his technology curriculum, Weinberg teaches high school students to code simple control systems to trigger lights or buzzers in response to changing conditions monitored by sensors. He hopes that, by securely streaming data from the monitoring and alarm suite to the phone of a nurse or doctor in real time, the Charged Concepts system will enable more efficient and appropriate care.
“It’s something that will hopefully make things easier for [all treating COVID-19],” Weinberg said.
“We’re looking to build these systems so they are robust and flexible enough to work both now and into the future, as well.”
Travis Teague, Developer Growth Lead at Helium Systems, a provider of technologies related to low-power, long-range, encrypted communication between devices on the Internet of Things (IoT), said that their data technology system, “LoRaWAN”, allows for secure data transfer with a highly permeating radio signal for communication across very long distances.
“Inside areas like hospitals, where it’s very "noisy" with signals being transferred to and from devices, a lot of times your Wi-Fi – 2.4, 5G – is not going to be as nearly as effective at transferring data as these sub-G bands [Helium’s radio signals], which allow you to have much better coverage [and] a lot better error correction,” Teague said.
The technology uses a spread-spectrum-like chirp protocol, which allows users to work in very noisy environments and still have an exceptionally good end-to-end collection of the sensor data, Teague said.
The encrypted data from the hospitals can be collected, scrubbed of patient-identifying information, and aggregated to allow others to learn from it.
“The end goal is to increasing treatment response speed and efficacy while decreasing oxygen consumption rates and the consequent costs that go along with that,” Penn said, “if we can use [artificial intelligence] machine learning – or allow a nurse or doctor from the nurses’ station to remotely optimize and adjust a patient’s treatment protocol, without even having to go into the room – we can save the 30-60 seconds it would otherwise take for the caregiver to physically reach the patient and start that intervention.
Every minute that we save buys the patient a greater chance of recovery and survival.”
COVID-19 is an evolving problem, Weinberg said, and everyone needs to work together to get right.
“We want to intervene as quickly as possible, [and] make the system intelligent, robust, and secure,” Penn said, “with the technology we’re developing, we can collect a pool of data for future researchers to perform retrospective studies – they can go back and see what worked and what didn’t work.”
In addition to the monitoring and alarm suite, the Charged Concept team is developing a proning pillow accessory for the helmet-based ventilation systems.
Proning pillows allow a patient receiving a helmet-based treatment to be moved into a prone position on their back or side, without removing the helmet. This positioning allows for improved lung expansion and enhanced expulsion of secretions, which can decrease pulmonary distress and improve breathing.
“These accessories are extremely important for the helmet-based systems,” said Aurika Savickaite, RN, MSN, and co-founder of HelmetBasedVentilation.com. Though she acknowledged that her team is still waiting for studies to be finalized and published, she noted that Italian patient data collected early in the pandemic suggested that early proning of COVID-19 patients contributed to higher survival rates and fewer complications.
In keeping with the team’s mission to identify and address unmet challenges, Penn emphasized that the accessories under development by the Charged Concepts team aim to “fill in the gaps” in helmet-based treatment protocols. He further stressed that the products are all “helmet-agnostic” and not specific to any one manufacturer’s helmet design. A universal line of products will increase adoption and make the helmet-based ventilation technology more accessible and cost-effective when it is needed most, he believes.
The team is currently working to better understand the dorsal (back) lung region and how their proning pillows could allow patients to be positioned to better expel secretions and still be comfortable. They are developing a variety of proning pillow designs, including one that resembles a pair of earmuffs and one that can be inflated and deflated as necessary. They have even designed a pillow that could be moved with an external magnet to allow repositioning by the patient or medical team without removing the helmet.
“All the technologies we are developing are designed to make the jobs of the nurses, doctors, and caretakers easier, allowing them to focus more on improving the patient’s care and comfort,” Penn said.
“Ultimately, no matter what we do, no cost or amount of money made can replace the life of a loved one, so anything we can do to improve treatments and increase patient survival will be worth the effort,” Penn said. The team at Charged Concepts is pushing on with their development, emphasizing that they are resolved in knowing that the technologies that they are building now will lead to further adoption and advancements in non-invasive helmet based ventilation not only for COVID but for future infectious diseases, as well as have lasting impact in both first world and developing nations where infrastructure, resources, and personnel may be limited.
Charged Concepts is currently seeking funding and additional strategic partners to translate the concept demonstrators into commercial products, perform clinical testing, obtain FDA Emergency Use Authorization, and manufacture in volume.
Charged Concepts and Helium would like to acknowledge and thank the following organizations for their contributions to this project: Helmet Based Ventilation, SparkFun Electronics, ReSound Clinical and Regulatory Consulting, VFX Lab, Saigon South International School, Integron, Sgnl24, Cantina Films, Companies of Nassal, and NASA. If you would like more information or can help, please contact Charged Concepts at firstname.lastname@example.org