Mobile applications in Parkinson’s

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Health and medicine applications

In 2015 the number of mobile phones in the world reached 7.3 billion, and was therefore higher than the number of people living on this planet. Consequently, the number of mobile applications available in the market has been increasing in recent years, with more than 2 million apps in Google Play Store and Apple Store.[1]

Around 97,000 of those apps are focused on health and medicine[2] issues and, statistics so far show that the general public mostly downloads apps including:

  1. Health information
  2. Physical activity recommendations
  3. Some types of diets
  4. Support on medication management.[3]

 

Mobile apps in Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease and, as symptoms and treatments responses can vary from one person to another, continuous monitoring is required for correct assessment. In this sense, mobile apps may be useful in the management of patients with PD.

The first bibliographic reference in literature research related to the development of a mobile app for PD was in 2011. Since then, several initiatives to promote research in Parkinson’s disease, including the use of mobile applications, have been launched.

Some of these were supported by European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme, as CuPid[4] and REMPARK[5]. Among the ongoing research that has been carried out within the Horizon 2020 framework are the development of a PD Manager Platform[6] and the mPark Application, both undertaken by Life Supporting Technologies Research Group (LifeSTech) from Polytechnic University of Madrid. Additionally, other projects are being developed by companies such as Apple (mPower Application[7]) and Roche Pharmaceuticals[8] including apps to assess PD.

For those who read this post and want to go deeper into the knowledge of potentially useful apps for PD patients (e.g. trade names, main features or prices) available in leading app stores, we strongly recommend reading the systematic review by Linares-del Rey M, et al[9].

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Figure 1. Graphic representation of PD app. Source: Linares-del Rey M, et al (2017).

 

The article mentioned above reveals around 125 potentially useful applications for PD patients. Among these, 69 have been specifically designed for PD. According to the article, 23 apps provide information; 29 assess different aspects; 13 are focused on treatments; and 4 apps are intended for both assessment and treatment of PD patients.

 

ICT4Life mobile app

In this context, ICT4Life system includes a mobile application that attempts to provide an answer to one of the greatest challenges for neurodegenerative diseases: the monitoring of medical treatment, physiotherapy and assessment of the patients’ status continuously over time.

As described in a previous post called “how does ICT4Life extends elderly people’s autonomy?”[10], the smartphone´s main functionalities include: warning notification services (e.g. check/arrange dates); training for different actors (e.g. patients, caregivers); and social interaction. ICT4Life system could benefit PD patients due to these features and a deep monitoring of symptoms, treatments, personal circumstances, and better contact with the network of health professionals and caregivers involved in their care. This would improve patients’ quality of life.

 

PD patient’s feedback on ICT4Life mobile app

In order to test ICT4Life different components, several iterative testing phases have been performed with end users from France, Hungary and Spain since October 2016 and 2017 (month 24 of the ICT4Life project implementation)

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Picture 1: Deep test of the mobile app performed by a Parkinson’s patient

 

To test the ICT4Life mobile app, Parkinson’s patients were guided to perform a previously defined task list, agreed upon by the end-users researchers and the technical partners. This allowed ICT4Life consortium to gather the patients’ first impressions about the different tested functionalities in terms of design, usability, functionalities and requirements. Here we outline some of the feedback received:

  • Parkinson’s patients were able to understand and learn how to use the app, improving their testing performances with practice.
  • Patients noted that they could better communicate with social or health professionals through this app. The most appreciated functionalities were the calendar, the list of medicines and the library.
  • Parkinson’s disease stage of evolution strongly correlated with the autonomous use of ICT4Life mobile app. Patients at an earlier stage browsed through it more easily than patients at a later stage.
  • Age and previous usage of ICT tools correlated with the acceptance level, capability, usability of the mobile app and satisfaction with its use (negatively and positively, respectively).
  • Differences by gender were not detected regarding use and acceptance of the app. Gender differences seemed to be more related to social context and needs, tastes and preferences.
  • Patients were pleased with their central role in co-designing the mobile app. They also considered that this device could empower them and allow them to live independently for longer, which would have beneficial effects on their quality of life.

This ICT4Life component will continue being tested along a series of pilots planned for 2018, which will be implemented in real life scenarios such as at rehabilitation centres, day care centres and home sets. This means that more conclusions and suggestions for development will be gathered over the coming months.

 

Author:

Mayca Marín

Asociación Parkinson Madrid

                                                          Follow APM on Twitter, @ParkinsonMadrid

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