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Accessible and Scalable Cognitive Rehab Training
Episode

Mark Watson, the CEO and Executive Director at ABI Wellness

Accessible and Scalable Cognitive Rehab Training

If you or someone you know is having issues with attention, memory, planning and organizing following a brain injury, is it possible to improve that brain through a good, well-dosed cognitive rehabilitation platform? 

In this episode of the Outcomes Rocket, we are excited to once again feature Mark Watson, the CEO and Executive Director at ABI Wellness. Mark has been in the podcast before, and today he is back to share with us how what he is doing to empower others in the realm of improving cognition as a method to improve outcomes and brain injury. 

Mark discusses ABI Wellness’s efforts in helping clinicians further standardize, optimize and extend their care and improve the outcomes of the patients through the BEARS (Brain Enhanced And Recovery System) method. He also explains the different groups who benefit from the training. 

Find out how ABI Wellness is helping clinicians and organizations take the patients’ care to the next cognitive level. Please tune in!

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Accessible and Scalable Cognitive Rehab Training

About Mark Watson

Mark is the Executive Director and CEO at ABI Wellness. His background in human kinetics and educational leadership paired with his background as an educator and athlete positions him well in his role at ABI Wellness. His experiences with learning difficulties developed his interest in different learning profiles and helping students better understand the nature of their disabilities and their ability to overcome them. What he’s doing is pairing his clinical experience and serving students with learning disabilities with his previous experience.  

Mark is committed to working with patients so they can lead more fulfilled and independent lives. A frequent speaker on the topic of brain injury rehabilitation, Mark has presented his work to numerous public health agencies B.C. Cancer Agency, the NHL Alumni Association, and more. Mark also serves as a member of the Integrated Health Advisory Board at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 

Mark Watson, the CEO and Executive Director at ABI Wellness: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Mark Watson, the CEO and Executive Director at ABI Wellness: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
Hey everybody! Saul Marquez and welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket, so glad to have you back. Today I have the privilege of hosting somebody that you know well, he’s been on the podcast with us and he is a tremendous individual. His name is Mark Watson. He is the CEO and Executive Director at ABI Wellness. His background as an educator and an athlete positions him to appreciate and explore the brain’s ability to charge and recover after brain injury. That’s his focus. And if you’ve not listened to his episode, it’s on improving cognition as a method to improve outcomes and brain injury. Gosh, you’re going to love it. I’ve never met somebody so dedicated to this realm that really, we don’t have a lot of metrics around, and he’s focused on getting research on. So I’m going to stop there. And first of all, welcome you back, Mark. I’m so glad to see you and be with you here.

Mark Watson:
Hey, you too, Saul. It’s always good to reconnect with an old friend around outcomes which we’re both ultra-inspired around. So thanks again for having me.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. So, folks, Marc is in Vancouver, Canada, and just, I mean, from there making such a huge impact not only in the Canadian medical space but also in the U.S. medical space, specifically around improving cognition, doing things like using virtual care, specific standards around a lot of programs that they develop, which one of them he’s going to talk about here. So today it’s going to be about the work that Mark is doing to empower others to deliver this great work. So Mark, why don’t you level set with the people that haven’t heard the initial podcast? Tell us what you do and why it’s different and who needs to be involved?

Mark Watson:
Yeah, it’d be my pleasure, Saul, and thanks again. You’re really good at what you do, and I really appreciate your level of inquiry. Pretty awesome. And that’s why I enjoy again speaking with you and your audience. You know what ABI wellness has done. It’s really taken a keen interest and better understanding of how to help people that are having cognitive challenges following insult injury or illness. We’re even talking a little bit around even illness and brain cancers earlier. When we look at the landscape of care in inpatient, there’s really good work and even into community rehab and outpatient. There’s also, I think overall quite remarkable care here in North America. But where it tends to require maybe a little bit more standardization and a systems-based approach is when we discharge into the community. That can be quite a steep kind of cliff to come off of. And what we found was by implementing a lot of what worked so well in inpatient around systems and interdisciplinary care, applying that logic that systems knowledge into the outpatient care with a focus on neuroplastic cognitive intervention.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, you know, Mark, the way that you’ve done it is is unique and you know, you cover during our last time together, the BEARS method. Can you level set with the listeners on the BEARS method because I think that’s the core and that’s what you’re working to scale?

Mark Watson:
One hundred percent. So the BEAR’s system is the Brain Enhanced And Recovery System. So what it is is it really is a platform that enables providers, enables organizations, whether it’s hospital systems, private physio or chiropractic clinics or not-for-profits to really license this technology, bring it to their organizations so they can further standardize, optimize and extend their care and improve the outcomes of the patients and clients that they serve. So it’s really not about ABI. Abi is really helped to develop a system that empowers the clinicians to extend their care and standard further standardize their care.

Saul Marquez:
You know, that’s fantastic. And nobody has more of a personal story then than you when it comes to why you started this business. I remember you sharing with us. I think you had a learning disability early in grade one. You became a teacher, right?

Mark Watson:
100 percent.

Saul Marquez:
And then after that, you got brain cancer.

Mark Watson:
It was actually a blood cancer. But we were. Yeah, and I’ve had multiple concussions as well. So I’ve had some setbacks like many of us, like all of us and that helps to inspire me to serve.

Saul Marquez:
I’ve always been inspired by you, Mark. You take the bull by the horns. You don’t take BS.

Mark Watson:
I try not to. I try not to.

Saul Marquez:
And so, you know, one of the things I think would be really great to do today would be to really help the folks listening understand who can benefit from this training. The Bears training the innovative, you know, cognition and brain recovery training. That you do. Where do they work? How is this being applied, where is it being applied? Can you give context to all of this?

Mark Watson:
Yeah, I think that’s a really good point Saul and I think it’s something that we often struggle to explain. I do think it’s one of my weaker points because I’m so passionate about the research and the outcome, but really who it works for. It’s actually a platform that’s being designed to help, like even private physiotherapy or concussion clinics that specialize in helping with vestibular rehabilitation. One of the clinics we work with, the owner of the clinic, is a specialized physical therapist that really works in manual therapy. But what she found after putting many of her patients through their protocols in improving gait and balance and motor performance and even ocular motor, many have persistent cognitive issues. And that frustrated her because she was saying these cognitive issues are going to continue to impair the quality of life and the capacities of that individual. So once she saw one of our webinars, she contacted me and said, How do I get involved? So what happened? We met over a cup of coffee. Fortunately, she was local here and we sat down and said, OK, here’s what we do. Here’s what we don’t do. And she said, Well, cognition has been something I’ve always struggled with treating. And then she came in, she licensed our platform, we trained her, and she’s been successfully delivering it for years now. Not for profits, I’ve met with boards that run, not for profits. And really, when we think about community engagement and helping many mandates of quality of life is to improve quality of life. Well, you can do that through education, and many not for profits thankfully provide education, but also service, whether it’s meals or residential services for that population. And I think that’s a beautiful thing when we think about Maslow’s hierarchy. But what about going up that next step to try to at least provide the option? And I’m just saying that very clearly just the option to engage in cognitive programs that can actually improve some of those underlying cognitive capacities that stand in the way of engaging more fully in activities of daily living. And then there are hospital systems that use this so neuropsychologists can use this as a part of their practice because oftentimes a neuropsychologist is very good at assessing cognitive issues. However, a trained neuropsychologist can know rather quickly before going through the battery based on going through the patient’s history if they’re going to likely be experiencing some of these higher-order cognitive difficulties. But the question I have for them then is what do you then do about it? And a lot of the standard of care is rooted in compensatory strategies, which are really useful. But what our team challenges is why not exhaust the neuro-plastic potential of the brain prior to surrendering to the compensatory strategies that we can all utilize and benefit from?

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, Mark, I appreciate that. Thank you. So what are some examples of some of these cognitive impairments? You know, can you give us some, some examples of what they are? You know, not everybody is in this field, so it’d be good to understand that.

Mark Watson:
Yeah, for people that are listening, you know, again, we talk about this training and it’s coming up relatively quickly and I’ve been so fortunate, Saul. It’s not me, not me alone. I’ve got a wonderful team with me. They’re amazing people from people who work and kind of partnerships and growth to marketing to neuroscience to everything else in between. But you know, we see people initially people that had complex mild traumatic brain injuries or a chronic concussion with symptoms and the standard of care when we started Saul was once you’ve got a twenty-four-month window to recover. And I got I was fortunate to meet with some amazing researchers and said, Why is that the case? And it’s kind of like what? We want to be safe. We want to make sure there’s not a false sense of hope, and we want to make sure everything else is kind of settle down because the brain is constantly working to repair itself, which is the beautiful thing about our brain. But what we found was that oftentimes the strategies that were used in cognitive rehab were siloed in nature, which was problematic for the individual, but also for the clinician. And I’m really thinking about the clinician. It’s hard for them. If I have to run six different assessments in order to get to the care I’ve already utilized a lot of resourcing for that patient. So people that have this brain fog or cognitive fatigue due to concussion, perfect for this sort of a program. People that might have suffered a stroke and are suffering from things like aphasia fluid reasoning, which is kind of our ability to think on our feet that we all kind of need to live more independently and make decisions more in real-time. People that are struggling to complete tasks in activities of daily living that is good, whether it’s moderate to severe TBI or post-stroke. But even people who might have brain fog related to illness, which is really timely in today’s times. We’ve been talking about that for years, though. So looking at that population as another population and also people looking to enhance through sports enhancement, that’s something that’s not often trained its cognition. We do a lot with physical performance and we’ve got that metaphor, you know, train the muscle to improve the performance on the field. I think the same can be true in cognition as well, and it’s not often done.

Saul Marquez:
Wow. Some great examples of their mark and truly appreciate you walking us through those. There’s research that shows improvement and you’re you’re deep into this so talk to us a little bit about that. And honestly, the goal if you’re listening to this. The goal of us sharing this with you is for you to give it a shot because you’re right, Mark.

Mark Watson:
Yeah. I mean, you’ve got to think about what the standard of care is really. And we go back, Saul. You talk about that, you know, different examples of how advancement happens and it inspires me every time it gives me goosebumps right here thinking about it. When you think about some cancer care, some Alzheimer’s care, you know, some cardiac care. It took good research to better understand how to move the standard of care ahead. And it’s so wonderful to see this in the brain injuries based on the assessment side. I’m seeing this in leaps and bounds, remarkable improvements and changes on our own, not only in assessment but in education and on the treatment side on the cognitive treatment side. All we’re trying to say is there. There’s a better way potentially to at least have a look at. And that way you can have the option. Because for so many people, we started a clinic up here in Canada and we had people inquiring from all over the place for these services and even people relocating for those services that must change. What we found in our research was that many people when we first posed the research question which was could people with chronic cognitive symptom presentation following complex mild TBI? I know that’s a mouthful, but people two years post-concussion that are having issues with attention, memory planning and organizing can we actually through a good, well-dosed cognitive rehabilitation platform, improve that brain? And the answer is yes. The brain can change throughout a lifetime. Sometimes we want to take the easy way. Sometimes it’d be nice to have the limitless pill. I think we all can agree. Yes, we’re all human here. But in order to really move behavior along in a way that can sustain throughout the lifetime following the model that’s used in physical rehab, which takes that kind of behavioral change along with the physical change, it’s the same kind of thing here. Same thing. It’s engaging in a system that enforces behavioral change, then leads to cognitive change and then habitual change. So we’re really looking for the innovators out there, the ones that believe that this is something that the standard of care is something we want to think about improving. Ok, wonderful. Let’s have a conversation about that and see if there’s something that could fit because we’re finding our platform is growing. We’re arranging new kind of clinical partnerships and we’re excited to continue to grow.

Saul Marquez:
That’s awesome, Mark. And, you know, a system that generates that type of value, those types of results, and the type of outcomes that you’re researching and documenting deserves attention and deserves a look. And so thinking through how people get involved, how do they do that?

Mark Watson:
Yeah. I mean, when we first met, it was a smaller operation than it is now. You know, simply go to the site www.abiwellness.com. I’m sure it’ll be in the notes.

Saul Marquez:
Yep.

Mark Watson:
Just click there. We can hold your hand through it and just see if it’s something that might fit. We offer virtual self-paced training now, and that’s coming up in November, so we’re all kind of walking through that qualification process right now. You know, we’re finding physiotherapy clinics have been really successful, but also hospital systems when we look at that kind of outpatient community. I think there’s a way here that we can really help. And if you’re interested, just reach out to us. We’ll get back to you, our mandate within twenty-four hours, we will be back to you if we can’t help you. My promise is we’ll try to connect you with groups that we think could because this is a problem that I think together we can work towards solving and it doesn’t have to be as big of an issue as it currently is. I don’t think we can work together and we can do something about this.

Saul Marquez:
I agree. Mark, hey, I have a question for you specifically around reimbursement. You know, oftentimes treatment is driven by reimbursement. And so talk to us a little bit about, I guess, what is in place now and how does the therapy you offer fall into place within the reimbursement models?

Mark Watson:
Well, it would depend on which way they’re operating. So if it’s like a neuropsychologist, those would obviously be different codes that one would be billed against. If we’re looking at physical therapy or occupational therapy, if we have a group-type based code, then that might be something that could fit really, really well. Again, those are the kind of conversations, you know, we’re getting reimbursement paid from providers. So it’s something that would be wonderful to have a conversation around. Not saying we have compliance everywhere yet we don’t. But as we expand into different markets, what we do have and this is the title of your podcast is Outcomes. And that’s what gets a lot of people coming to us and interested is we’re seeing outcomes. Well, you know, me, I’m a cognitive nerd, so we initially saw the changes in fluid reasoning, which again, conventional wisdom kind of suggested don’t even try because these people sadly have issues with attention, memory, and planning. So keep it suppressed and don’t work too hard. No, you have to try. And if you choose not to, that’s fine, but you got to give the option. All right. Because that’s how innovation happens. We know that and we’re excited to continue to partner with whether it’s physical therapists, occupational therapists, physiatrists, medical doctors, not for profits. If this is a problem that you continually have, we want to help. Not saying that we’ll necessarily be able to do it all for you, but we’ll have the conversations to try to link it up so that we can help to improve the quality of life, not only for the patient that you serve but also for the clinician that’s frustrated with this problem.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. And hey, Mark, thank you. All the action is clear. Do something about it, folks. This is the time you have an option with Marc and his team. Mark, are you at liberty to talk about pricing and things like that?

Mark Watson:
Yeah. Oh, that’s a huge development and really important. I see my role as really listening and better understanding with the potential prospects’ needs because our model used to be, and I thought it was really fair. It was like a per-head licensing agreement, which I still kind of like because I feel like it’s really fair. Like if you don’t use it, you don’t have to pay anything. That’s wonderful. However, for organizations that are more medium to larger, we’ve actually rolled out a new subscription model with different options to better meet their needs and to better help them predict costs and all of that kind of stuff, which is very important for budgeting, but also for profitability. You know, in order to do more good, we have to have more resources and we understand that. So I’m really happy with our team, our CFO and shareholders, everybody involved. They’ve really listened to this because I felt like it was something we had to do. We had to roll up that red carpet and find a way to make it easier for people to engage.

Saul Marquez:
Beautiful. So options for everyone, no matter how small or large you are. Some great opportunities here for you to take cognitive care to the next level. Mark, thank you so much again for what you do. Any closing thoughts here for us today?

Mark Watson:
I just want to thank this network of people Saul. I want to thank you for your leadership and for sharing the message of a lot of really innovative organizations out there doing cool, exciting work. Thank you. I listen actively. I think it’s an awesome platform. I love learning. That’s the other thing. I love learning from other industries, from people who are doing different things. You know, some of the other virtual care companies out there, you may think that what you’re doing isn’t being heard. Well, it is. And keep on the mission, keep doing what you’re doing. And if there’s anything more that I can do to help anyone, so just connect me with them, I’m happy to help in any way.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. Mark, thank you so much. Really appreciate what you do and the difference you’re making. Thanks so.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • The brain can change throughout a lifetime. 
  • In order to do more good, we have to have more resources. 
  • You can learn from other industries, from people who are doing different things. 

 

Resources

https://www.abiwellness.com/