Posted on Apr 12, 2018, 12 a.m.
Johns Hopkins University researchers working along with experts from other institutions to collaborate and develop a new approach that makes use of smartphones to generate a score which reliably reflects severity of symptoms for patients with Parkinson’s disease, as published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that is difficult to treat effectively as symptoms vary over hours to days including things such as tremors and walking difficulties. Parkinson’s disease patients typically are evaluated during 3-4 hour long visits by medical professionals, subjective assessments capture a brief snapshot of the fluctuating symptoms. Patients may be asked to fill out a 24 hour motor diary to record their mobility, involuntary twisting movements, and other symptoms, which the doctor will use to guide treatment.
Researchers claim that patients could use their smartphone app called HopkinsPD to objectively monitor their symptoms at home and share the data with their doctors to fine tune treatment. Using existing smartphone components researchers devised 5 tasks involving finger tapping, voice sensing, reaction time, balance, and gait measurement which was turned into the HopkinsPD app. Machine learning techniques devised by the team were used with the data collected by the test to convert it into an objective Parkinson’s disease severity score, which better reflects overall severity of symptoms and how the patient is responding to medications.
Smartphone evaluation could be useful as it does not rely on subjective observations of a medical professional, and can be administered anywhere at any time of day where the patient is less likely to be nervous, as frequently as wanted. Collection of more frequent data could give doctors a better picture of what the patient overall health is and how well they are responding to treatment to make adjustments.
Parkinson’s disease patients who participated in the research project used Android smartphones and downloaded the app which is available through the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative website. The research team has now partnered with Sage Bionetworks to develop mPower, as well as Apple to develop an iPhone version available at Apple’s App Store.
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