Hang around a bunch of EEG techs and sooner or later someone will talk about how they trained back when EEGs involved endless streams of EEG paper printouts. The move to digital EEG was a huge technological jump forward, but these techs adapted.

According to Leisha Osburn, who spoke at the ASET annual meeting held last month, techs are once again facing a sea change in their industry.

The last decade has brought technological advances like rapid response electroencephalography (rEEG), the subject of Osburn’s talk, that are being pushed even further forward by the coronavirus pandemic.

Because COVID-19 is so contagious, minimizing time and contact during EEG testing has become imperative. Also, the neurological sequelae related to the virus are also becoming more apparent, increasing the need for stat EEG testing.

“Need begets innovation and a willingness to try new things,” says Osburn.

Rapid EEG systems – electrode templates or caps – facilitate getting a rEEG in an acute scenario. They are specifically designed to be applied by bedside care providers, not necessarily EEG techs.

“That might be scary for us because we have always known that that’s part of our job that differentiates us from nurses or medical assistants or doctors,” Osburn adds.

All of that is to say, techs need to buy in so they are the ones called upon to implement this new technology.

“It’s more important to take care of our patients than it is to be scared about new technologies,” she says.

In her talk, Osburn gave several examples (not sponsored and by no means an exhaustive list) of rEEG systems that are already available on the market:

“These rapid EEG techniques are here to stay,” says Osburn. “Some of the technologies are good, but they’re designed to be a screening tool. Others, though, provide very high-quality recordings and have amazing potential in this space.”

The future of this technology is very exciting: “There are so many other spaces for us to be in. Point of injury is a big one.”

Point of injury takes EEG monitoring outside of traditional medical environments and onto the sports field. Here, researchers and engineers are working to develop rEEG technology that can be quickly and easily used to detect brain injuries such as concussions.

“Football players started making us more aware of post-concussion syndrome. And we belong in that space,” says Osburn. “Brain waves are a big part of the discovery and the solution to this challenge. The ability to detect changes in brain activity in more real time will increase the rate of diagnosis, thereby facilitating targeted therapies.”

To this end, the race is on to develop portable and affordable EEG devices. Doctors at Columbia University, for example, have developed a football helmet prototype (here’s a YouTube video) that is designed to detect concussions seconds after impact.

Osburn encourages techs to open their eyes to EEG’s new directions EEG.

“You need to do your research,” she says. “We have a new and exciting future in patient care! I look forward to embracing it together with you all.”

Leisha Osburn, MHA, MS, R. EEG/EP T., CLTM, CNIM, DABNM, FASET, FACNS, is founder and chief executive officer of Next Gen Neuro LLC, a company that provides remote EEG/cEEG monitoring and staffing solutions. Learn more about her on LinkedIn.