One of the world’s most common diseases is also simultaneously one of the easiest to cure and misdiagnose. According to Ottawa-based MD, Dr. Matthew Bromwich, CEO of Clearwater Clinical Ltd., the stats are dizzying. That’s why he and his team of medical and ICT professionals worked together to create the mobile application, DizzyFix, which can help cure vertigo on the spot.
Over the course of a lifetime, more than 40 percent of people will experience some kind of dizziness. The most common type of vertigo is BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo), and while vertigo is one of three subcategories of dizziness, it is extremely common – and until very recently, it was considered extremely difficult to diagnose and treat.
That’s until Dr. John Epley discovered a maneuver that literally shifts the positioning of crystals floating in a person’s inner ear. “The Epley Maneuver” involves moving one’s head in a series of directions in order to try and move the crystals out of the inner ear chambers that cause the dizziness and into their proper locations – much like trying to control the flakes inside a snow-globe.
Clearwater Clinical Ltd.’s first product aimed at treating this disorder was a physical device consisting of a series of tubes, modeled after the human inner ear, attached to the beak of a baseball cap. The tubes were filled with liquid and small crystal-like particles, and as the patient moved their head in order to move the crystals from one tube to another, their dizziness would be fixed.
The new mobile app complements the physical device through its ability to represent a person’s inner ear when held up to their head. Exclusive to iPhones, the app uses the device’s accelerometer to read the patient’s inner ear, and instruct them on how exactly to move their head in order cure the dizziness.
Clearwater has targeted physicians as the primary users of the app, simply because the first step toward managing vertigo effectively on a large scale is to get doctors on board with how best to treat it.
“The problem was a lot of doctors either didn’t have our physical DizzyFix apparatus, or they weren’t familiar or comfortable with the Epley Maneuver,” Matthew said. “The solution came in realizing that a lot of physicians have iPhones and use them on the job, so we could develop something for the iPhone that would help treat one of the most pervasive and costly diseases on earth.”
Costly is right: a 2003 American study estimates that each episode of BPPV costs roughly $2,700 to cure, due to the typical series of misdiagnoses, and the subsequent prescriptions, unneeded appointments with specialists, lost work, travel time, and so on.
Prior to the advent of the Epley Maneuver, sufferers of Vertigo had a 15 percent spontaneous recovery rate – in other words, 15 percent of patients would simply get better naturally over the course of a few months or years. And a European study found that of the people who were properly diagnosed with BPPV, only 8 percent were treated correctly.
One successful DizzyFix treatment, meanwhile, has been proven to raise that percentage to 88 percent; while three sequential DizzyFix treatments boosts it higher to 95 percent.
“Vertigo is immensely disabling and extremely unpleasant,” Matthew said. “Some people even say they would rather feel some sort of acute pain.”
He said he is absolutely thrilled to have created a product that cures such a common and pervasive disease.
“It’s essentially miraculous,” he said. “You go from being dizzy all day to someone doing something very specific to you for a couple minutes and suddenly you’re cured.”
Matthew said Clearwater aims to elaborate on the app by creating a free student version for medical students, as well as integrating a social media component to allow vertigo patients to interact with one another through the app.
For Matthew, his work on the app is all about taking one simple yet transformative idea, and propagating it as widely as possible.
“It’s something so simple to treat, so why would you not?”