Tracking Parkinson's symptoms with phone app could improve treatment

Researchers say the use of HopkinsPD and mPower by patients with Parkinson's disease could help improve their own treatment and the way doctors overall handle patients with the disease.
By Allen Cone  |  March 26, 2018 at 4:21 PM
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March 26 (UPI) -- Smartphone software and technology can accurately track the severity of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, leading to better drugs and treatment, according to a study.

Because Parkinson's symptoms fluctuate widely on a daily basis, it makes it difficult to track the progression of the disease and adjust treatment, researchers said.

Data collected by the app, called HopkinsPD on Android and mPower on iPhone, allowed physicians to get an ongoing look at the patient's condition instead of their visits once every several months.

"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," co-author Dr. Ray Dorsey, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a press release.

HopkinsPD, which is available for smartphones that run the Android operating system, was originally developed by Dr. Max Little, an associate professor of Mathematics at Aston University in Britain. The iPhone version of the app, mPower, was later developed and released in 2015 by Little, Dorsey, and Sage Bionetworks.

For the study, published Monday in the Journal of American Medical Association's Neurology, researchers monitored 129 individuals who remotely completed a series of tasks on HopkinsPD.

The tasks measured voice, finger tapping, gait, balance and reaction time. In all, the researchers analyzed 6,148 smartphone activity assessments from the participants.

The smartphone data was analyzed using a machine-learning algorithm to generate a mobile Parkinson disease score on scale of 1-100 with the highest number the greatest severity.

The researchers also conducted in-person visits with 58 individuals with Parkinson's disease and controls in the clinic at URMC. They were asked to complete tasks on the app and were also seen by a neurologist and scored using a standard clinical evaluation tool for the disease.

The measurements collected by the app corresponded with what was observed by the physicians in the clinic.

After clinical trials, researchers hope the app could provide physicians and patients with a new way to monitor 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," said Dr. Christopher Tarolli, a neurologist at URMC and co-author of the study.

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