Capturing a patient’s experience outside the doctor’s office has been an ongoing struggle when it comes to treating Parkinson’s disease. But now a new smartphone app can now detect the severity of symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease remotely, according to a recent study published by JAMA.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Rochester Medical Center and Aston University have collaborated created an app, called HopkinsPD, that is able to generate an objective severity score Parkinson’s symptoms, which strongly correlates to current standard rating scales.
“If you think about it, it sounds crazy,” Dr. Ray Dorsey, co-author and neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a statement, “but until these types of studies, we had very limited data on how these people function on Saturdays and Sundays because patients don’t come to the clinic on Saturdays or Sundays. We also had very limited data about how people with Parkinson’s do at two o’clock in the morning or 11 o’clock at night because, unless they’re hospitalized, they’re generally not being seen in clinics at those times.”
In the observational study, participants remotely completed five tasks on the smartphone. The tasks included voice, finger tapping, gait and reaction time activities. The device then used a machine -learning to generate, what they called a mobile Parkinson’s disease score, which is designed to be objectively score the activities monitored by the smartphone on a scale from 0 to 100. A higher score indicated more severity.
There were 129 participants with an average age of 58.7 years old. Twenty-three participants with Parkinson’s and 17 without the condition completed an in-clinic assessment as well. The phone score correlated well with the standard movement tests generally given by physicians including the Movement Disorder Society Unified Parkinson Disease’s Rating Scale and the Time Up and Go assessment, according to the study.
“Using a novel machine-learning approach, we created and demonstrated construct validity of an objective Parkinson’s disease severity score derived from smartphone assessments,” authors of the study wrote. “This score complements standard Parkinson’s disease measures by providing frequent, objective, real-world assessments that could enhance clinical care and evaluation of novel therapeutics providing frequent, objective, real-world assessments that could enhance clinical care and evaluation of novel therapeutics.”
Researchers also found that the mobile Parkinson’s disease score improved by 16.3 points in response to dopaminergic therapy.
This isn’t the only Parkinson’s focused mobile app. Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit biomedical research organization, developed a Parkinson’s app, called mPower. The app aims to help users track their symptoms using activities including a memory game, finger tapping, speaking and walking. The app also collects data from wearables.
“While not all research gets integrated tangibly into people’s lives, what excites me most is the potential for the methods we developed to be deployed seamlessly into a patient’s lifestyle and improve the quality of care,” coauthor and Johns Hopkins undergrad Srihari Mohan said in a statement.