Tagged: application

Self monitoring: there’s something in your eye

Self tracking/monitoring has become a popular habit for the general population with the introduction of products like Fitbit and Apple watch.

It is particularly useful for groups like the Parkinson’s community though, who are tired of having just one hour per year of assessments with their neurologist.

In today’s post, we will look at some new tracking/monitoring technologies that are being developed that could have important implications for not only how we assess Parkinson’s disease, but also for how we treat it.

Homo deus. Source: RealClearLife

I have recently finished reading ‘Homo Deus‘ by Yuval Noah Harari – the excellent follow-up to his previous book ‘Sapiens‘ (which is an absolute MUST READ!). The more recent book provides an utterly fascinating explanation of how we have come to be where we will be in the future (if that makes any sense).

In the final few chapters, Harari discusses many of the technologies that are currently under development which will change the world we live in (with a lot of interesting and cautionary sections on artificial intelligence – the machines that will know vastly more about us than we know about ourselves).

Of particular interest in this part of the book was a section on the Google-Novartis smart lens.

What is the Google-Novartis smart lens?

In 2014, a company called Alcon, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Novartis formed a collaboration with the Google offshoot Verily Life Sciences that would focus on developing smart lens.

The initial project is rather ambitious: develop and take to the clinic a glucose-sensing contact lens for people with diabetes. The idea has been particularly championed by Google founder Sergey Brin (a prominent figure within the Parkinson’s community with his significant contributions to Parkinson’s research each year).

People with diabetes have to keep pricking their finger over the course of a day in order to check the levels of insulin in their blood. A less laborious approach would be welcomed by the diabetic world (an estimated 415 million people living with diabetes in the world).

This is what the lens may eventually look like:

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A smartphone application for Parkinson’s disease


Here at the SoPD, we like our gadgets and new technology.

And we believe that there is enormous potential for people with Parkinson’s disease to benefit hugely even from some of the small technological advances that seem to be occurring on a day basis.

Today’s post will review a recent study that looked at tested the benefits of a smartphone application for people with Parkinson’s disease.


A schematic illustrating the limited monitoring of Parkinson’s. Source: Riggare

On her great blog, Swedish engineer and ‘proud mother’ Sara Riggare posted the image above to illustrate the ridiculous current situation regarding the standard monitoring of Parkinson’s disease.

As the schematic perfectly illustrates, in 2014 Sara spent 8,765 hours conducting ‘self care’. That is, she was applying her own knowledge and experience to managing her Parkinson’s disease. For just one hour in that year was her Parkinson’s actually being monitored by a medical clinician (8,766 being the number of hours in a year).

This is actually a very serious problem – for not only the Parkinson’s community – but anyone suffering from a long-term medical condition. How are they to gage their current situation on a day to day basis when they have such infrequent visits to their medical specialist?

And this is where technology can help.

But, before we begin:

FULL DISCLOSURE NO.1: the author of this blog is an author in the study that will be discussed (#ThisIsNotShamelessSelfPromotion).

FULL DISCLOSURE NO.2: We here at the SoPD are in no way benefitting from mentioning the study here. The company behind the product, umotif, has not asked us nor been contacted by us regarding this post (in fact, they are completely unaware that we are posting this). We are writing this post simply because we thought that it would be of interest to the wider Parkinson’s community. And yes, as other technology comes to along, we will bring it to you attention by posting about it here.

With all of that out of the way, the study is AMAZING!


Title: Using a smartphone based self-management platform to support medication adherence and clinical consultation in Parkinson’s disease: Results from the SMART-PD Randomised Controlled Trial v4.
Authors: Lakshminarayana R, Wang D, Burn D, Barker RA, Chaudhuri KR, Galtrey C, van Guzman N, Hellman B, Pal S, Stamford J, Steiger M, Stott SRW, Teo J, Barker RA, Wang E, Bloem BR, van der Eijk M, Rochester L, & Williams A
Journal: NPJ Parkinson’s disease (2017), 3, 2.
PMID: N/A          (This article is OPEN ACCESS if you would like to read it)

The company behind the application approached various clinical research groups around the UK and proposed to run a study of their new product. The software had many features (including information about medication, a reminder alarm for when medication should be taken, tests/games, and links to other resources online).


A programmable reminder system for medication. Source: Nature

The primary focus of the software, however, was a flower-petal shaped motif that the participants could manipulate to indicate how they were feeling.


The umotif flower motif. Source: SalusDigital

Participants could drag each coloured petal in or out to indicate how they were feeling at a particular moment in time. The smaller the petal, the more lower the score. And each petal represented different aspects of daily life, for example the moon and stars (dark blue) petal allowed an indication of how one slept.

Each time the participant indicated their current status on the flower motif, the information was recorded and could be tracked over days, weeks, and months. This level of information allowed people to begin to see patterns in their own behaviour over time, with some people getting poorer sleep during the middle of the month for example. And different variables could be compared (such as sleep score with exercise score), providing users with a more dynamic idea of their situation over time.


Comparing scores between measures over time. Source: Nature

A total of 215 people with Parkinson’s disease were randomly assigned to either receive the application (106 subjects) or not (acting as a control subject; 109 subjects). Both groups were contacted by the investigators fours times during the 16 week trial and feedback was provided in addition to any changes in their treatment regimes.

72% of participants application group continued to use and engage with the application throughout the 16-week trial. By the end of the study, the application group demonstrated significantly improved adherence to their treatment regime when compared to the control group. Curiously, the application also significantly improved patients’ perception of quality of follow up consultations, demonstrating unexpected benefits.

And at the end of the study all of the control group participants in the study were allowed to begin using the application, while the application group continued to use it.

One interesting aspect of the study was the lack of interaction with technology by the target population. 180 people who were initially invited to take part in the study could not because they did not have smartphones (with iPhone/iPad or Android operating systems). So obviously there are opportunities for alternative approaches to this kind of tracking (other than a smartphone).

What does it all mean?

This smartphone application is a user friendly approach to tracking someone’s Parkinson’s over time, getting around the ‘lack of monitoring’ issue that concerns many in the community.

Umotif and Parkinson’s UK have kindly made this video about the study results so we might just sit back and let them explain what it all means and point out all of the benefits.

We are working on additional posts about wearable tech for Parkinson’s disease, which will be coming soon.

So stay tuned.

The banner for today’s post was sourced from ParkinsonsMovement