Parkinson’s disease has been the target of a fascinating amount of new innovation in the past few years, from an AI tool to provide early diagnosis to wearable devices designed to support sufferers. One of the more interesting of these was a mobile app that test for Parkinson’s in just four minutes. The app utilizes the sensors built into the phone to monitor and diagnose users.
Such apps are also being used to track the severity of symptoms. A recent study from researchers at the University of Rochester highlights how the app can provide both an objective measure of how the disease is progressing, and also a richer understanding of the daily lives of those with the disease.
“This study demonstrates that we can create both an objective measure of the progression of Parkinson’s and one that provides a richer picture of the daily lived experience of the disease,” the authors say.
One of the main challenges with Parkinson’s is that the symptoms fluctuate so much each day. This makes tracking the progression of the disease incredibly difficult, which in turn makes managing the treatment of it a challenge. The irregular visits to the doctor make it almost impossible to gain a true insight into the patient’s life.
The study highlights the potential of the smartphone to provide daily monitoring of Parkinson’s patients. It involved 129 patients who were asked to complete a range of tasks each day via a mobile app, called HopkinsPD, which asks users to complete tasks to measure things such as voice fluctuations, walking speed and balance.
Alongside the remote monitoring, the researchers also required patients to come into clinics to be seen by a neurologist and scored using standard clinical tools to see whether the data from the app correlated with that from the physician (it was).
The data gathered from the smartphone was then analyzed using a machine learning algorithm to produce a ‘Parkinson’s disease score’ between 1 and 100, with the higher the number, the higher the severity of symptoms.
The researchers appreciate that the journey to market is a lengthy one, and in the short-term the tool will primarily be used in clinical trial settings, but they are confident that it could eventually provide doctors and patients with an invaluable means of monitoring the disease.
“The ability to remotely monitor patients on a much more frequent basis, more accurately track the symptoms and progression of the disease, and monitor the impact of exercise, sleep, and medications and their side effects holds the potential to transform how we treat Parkinson’s disease,” they conclude.