Parkinson’s and Technology


The role of technology in Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that affects the brain and deteriorates over time. In the majority of cases, people over the age of 50 develop Parkinson’s but there have been instances of younger people developing it as well.

Considering that we are living in times of Covid-19 scare, digital health technology such as phone apps, wearable and non-contact sensors, smartphone applications, telemedicine are helping patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease1 immensely.

The technology is such that it monitors patients’ symptoms and understands behavioural symptoms when patients wear sensors at home. As a result, sleep problems can now be monitored at home instead in a sleep lab. Similarly, digital tools can measure tremors, uncontrolled movements, and falls and evaluate objectively the effect of therapies. All these lead to a better understanding of variable disease processes over time and provide more accurate outcomes.

These technological applications have also changed the way clinical research has been conducted at the time of the pandemic, as decentralised clinic trials conducted are expanding and more assessments are transferring from clinics to home and mobile devices. Even therapies such as speech and language therapy which required frequent visits to the clinic are now being conducted through remote digital therapeutics2.

Considering the fact that assessments are being conducted at home with mobile devices, even clinical trials in which Parkinson’s patients are unable to participate owing to their mobility issues can take part because of it being decentralised.

And that’s not all, another technology that has helped Parkinson’s patients immensely is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) technology. This technology improves patient quality of life by treating motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and slowed movement. It has also improved electrical signals and made it more adaptive to fluctuations in symptoms to replace constant signals predetermined by the doctor. As a result, these sensors monitor motions with precision as well as neurophysiological signals in the heart, brain, and muscles.

However, it is not possible for patients to wear multiple devices to track their symptoms hence such devices such as accelerometers are being installed in smartwatches and smartphones to make it easy for gathering information for clinical trials. Here data is also transmitted wirelessly and uploaded automatically into cloud-based databases to gather data remotely.

Another technology that is helping Parkinson’s patients with their diagnosis is Artificial Intelligence or AI. AI algorithms analyse data obtained from patient-worn accelerometers or sensors and then identifies movements affected by the disease then analyses the severity of the symptom. This technology is believed to be beneficial for clinical trials by helping analyse the data collected.

In a similar vein, mobile apps are being used to track trends in symptoms. Research has been conducted on how an app with the use of smartphone touch and motion sensors can be used to measure symptoms through the combination of smartphone touch and self-assessment questions. The accuracy of such data assessment turned out to be 80 percent accurate.

In a similar study, an app was used to track patients’ medicinal doses and their corresponding timing along with the symptoms successfully. The advantages of using these apps is that it comes with notifications and reminders for patients. It also doubles up as a virtual clinic3 for patients.

Thankfully, in this era of the pandemic, digital technologies have improved all aspects of diagnosis and treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Thanks to these technologies, data collection and monitoring symptoms and diagnosing the disease is easier because of improved data collection from medical devices, wearables, apps, and AI. Considering that the pandemic is here to stay, fortunately, the technologies are also here to stay and will only get better as the days go by.

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