Dr. Iltifat Husain’s physician take is at the end of this article

Roche Pharma Research and Early Development, which has become actively involved in mobile medicine in recent years, has created a smartphone app that helps physicians and patients more closely measure changes in the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The app is being used in a Phase 1 trial to supplement more traditional disease monitoring, including the United Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale or UPDRS, which clinicians use during patient visits. The new app will gather a great deal more data by having patients perform 6 active tests each day, followed by passive monitoring on the phone itself.

The active tests require patients to do a series of six 30-second activities. During a voice test, they have to say “aaah” for as long as possible; the balance test asks them to stand still; a gait assessment requires them to walk 20 yards, including an 180 degree turn; a dexterity test asks them to tap two buttons alternately on a touch screen with their dominant hand; two additional tests assess rest and postural tremor. The passive monitoring involves patients carrying a smartphone around with them during the day that contains sensors to collect additional data.

According to a press release from Hoffman-LaRoche, “The app is equipped with dashboards that show the patient’s compliance level. Based on this information, investigators can guide patients to use the app more regularly. Additionally, we can also monitor how much data is coming in from the smartphones. Based on this, we can ask investigators to speak with patients who should be using the app more regularly.” The smartphone app was developed for the Android platform and was installed on Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini phones, which Roche provides for the patients during the study.

Iltifat Husain MD’s take:

Two key takeaways from this story:

1) Pharmaceutical companies continue their rapid embracement of mobile over the past year. They are clearly seeing how passively and actively collecting data from mobile devices can help with their studies.

2) Roche appears to have made a conscious decision to bypass the iOS platform and go with Android. This is a reversal from trends where most medical and digital health platforms choose iOS first. I suspect this is because of the ability to create a more custom experience on Android versus Apple.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this trend continue for companies that have patients in active or set clinical trials. For overall enrollment we have seen Apple’s ResearchKit be a huge hit, but for trials already underway with subjects already enrolled, Android will offer a more custom experience.

3) Roche recently released the first FDA approved app that gives insulin bolus recommendations.