WICHITA FALLS, TX - A nonprofit organization founded in Wichita Falls, Auditory Implant Initiative (Aii), is changing the way cochlear implant hearing device data is being shared.
This software known as HERMES (HIPAA-Secure Encrypted Research Management Evaluation Solution) is used across the nation and was developed by Midwestern State University Students, and still use students from the computer science department for help and design.
In 2014 a group of computer science students from MSU started the development of HERMES, thanks to the efforts of Jed Grisel, a Wichita Falls Cochlear implant doctor and the co-founder of Aii.
A lot of the funding for Aii comes from donations and even from a couple of cochlear implant device manufacturers.
Institutions are allowed to use HERMES for free in exchange for data, and it can connect with another software called Noah, the largest product to track hearing aid patients since the 90s.
Dr. Grisel said this ramps up the amount of information in HERMES database.
HERMES is not only changing the way physicians share patient information, but it is helping candidates for the implant get access to this procedure.
Cochlear implants are electrical stimulators that connect to the cochlear nerve, instead of working off sound waves and enhancing sounds, like a hearing aid.
These implants are the only hearing device treatment for those who are profoundly deaf, and in the United States 1.2 million people are candidates for cochlear implants.
"Despite the fact that we have over a million candidates in the United States, only about five-percent of candidates are actually implanted," said Dr. Grisel.
Compared to the 50-percent of candidates who are implanted in Europe, but why is access so limited?
"We don't have enough information, and any one center does not have enough volume to be able to make a big difference. So, the software helps us to be able to pull all this data together from different centers, so we can have a bigger impact," said Dr. Grisel.
Grisel said his team's focus and mission is to increase the number of people with cochlear implants who need them.
Cochlear implant procedures are team based, so this software is allowing all doctors to get a complete picture of patient's needs and situations.
On the other hand, patients are getting better and more detailed care.
Aii's goal is to become the largest collection of cochlear implant outcomes data in the world, and they are moving in that direction.