Each year, over 50,000 patients are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Add to that the scores of patients affected by Parkinson’s spectrum disorders as well as other movement disorders and the result is millions of Americans for whom the simplest of daily tasks can be an enormous challenge.

As there is no cure for most, if not all, of these conditions, there are many treatments targeted at controlling their symptoms. However, as with many chronic diseases, a fifteen or thirty minute evaluation every few months can fall short in terms of evaluating symptoms or assessing progression.

Thinking about that problem, Di Pan, a doctoral student at ASU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics (BMI), realized that the tremors associated with the disease could be detected using a smartphone and a customized app. This app is being developed by Pan in collaboration with Rohit Dhall, of the Institute’s Deep Brain Stimulation Clinic, and St. Joseph’s Hospital. 

The basic functionality of the app involves the sensitive accelerometer which can be found in the majority of smartphones on the market today. A Parkinson’s patient simply has to either hold the smartphone equipped with the app in their hand or apply the device to their ankle for 30 seconds and then tap the screen. This allows the accelerometer of the tablet or smartphone to record movement.

The application measures the tremors and transmits the information to the patient’s doctor, facilitating enhanced communication between parties, where key data points can be relayed to the doctor’s office if they meet a particular predefined threshold.

“The goal of the device is to relate the information measured to a patient’s electronic medical records (EMRs) so doctors may log in and review the trends. This also swaps time-consuming patient checkups with the convenience of retrieving results from home in an efficient manner. Of course, the regularity of in-clinic patient checkups is dependent upon the stage of the disease and medication modifications. If the information received from the device is negative, meaning the disease has worsened, the patient will need to physically visit the physician at the clinic.”

The iMedicalApps team has previously reported on a similar device created by researchers at UCLA. In that article, researchers also used an iPhone 3G and a customized application to display how the characteristic Parkinson’s tremor can be diagnosed remotely using the accelerometer of the iPhone. While that was more of a proof of concept, the app designed by Pan is currently in its testing phase.  

An additional report we did was over iTrem which also uses the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer to collect data on a patient in his or her home and/or office. iTrem is also a promising development in being able to measure tremors.

The implication’s of Di Pan’s new symptom detection tool are very positive. Diagnosing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease early on can help with appropriate treatment methods and can alert a patient’s doctor to a worsening of the condition. This can lead to better and more targeted options for the patient which will ultimately culminate in a better quality of life.

Source: ASU

Continue the discussion on the iMedicalApps Forum