Previous research shows that wearable medical devices track diseases and monitor symptoms effectively. Now, a new study analyzed how well patients adapted to wearing innovative equipment nonstop for non-invasive monitoring and management of Parkinson’s disease (PD). This progressive neurodegenerative disorder affects body movements. Its worldwide impact is 7-10 million people. Due to the aging population, experts expect PD cases to double by 2020.
Patients Accept Remote Tool Prototype
A Spanish research group set a goal of determining whether subjects would consent to wear sophisticated medical monitoring devices constantly for their medical benefits, explains Jorge Cancela, a lead researcher. They tested fully operational prototypes on 92 Parkinson’s patients and 20 healthy controls in three European hospitals. The affordable wearable sensors on subjects’ ankles and wrists connected to data hubs encircling their waists. They collected and processed accelerometry signals continuously to detect and quantify patients’ symptoms automatically.
Collected data sent to data-logger devices support two operation modes. Using the stand-alone method, devices store the sensors’ data on SD cards, sending doctor appointment and medication alerts to patients. Devices also notify hospital staff when they detect falls or patients press emergency buttons. The connected mode involves a USB cable and PC. Then these devices can acquire data stored on SD cards, configure parameters, and create patients’ appointment and medication schedules.
This system’s data, test results from virtual-reality gloves, and additional details inform physicians about patients’ clinical states constantly. Doctors can readjust their treatment plans appropriately by building patient-specific profiles and changing their food intakes and medication dosages accordingly. Providers receive daily reports on multiple disease parameters with alerts for any anomalies. They use those data transmissions to detect and evaluate PD motor disabilities including tremors, slow movements, voluntary muscle movement challenges, freezing gait, and falling in real time.
Two major findings emerged, according to Cancela. A powerful social component drove the first one. Many patients had self-conscious concerns over how people would view them and their illness. Yet others experienced satisfaction in knowing that their doctors monitoring them remotely were more involved in their ongoing care. Patients rated their discomfort levels for all components they wore in low ranges, so the research team deemed their system acceptance as satisfactory.
Design Modifications to Come
To improve patients’ comfort and approval levels, the investigators also studied possible design adjustments. For example, subjects strongly preferred hidden wearables that aren’t noticeable. The designers could evolve wrists sensors to be less perceptible by reducing their size or imitating clothing items. Instead of subjects’ wearing data-collecting hubs around their waists, the scientists could transform them into portable devices and integrate them into commercial smartphones that fit more comfortably in pockets.
Analyst Greg Caressi notes that the inventors need to master more than designing a system that subjects agree to wear continuously. Its monitoring and notification processes aren’t enough for mass-scale production and adoption to occur. This medical device should be more efficient. For example, it needs to transmit more details so doctors can make the best real-time decisions.
Going from an application to a solution means giving providers something beyond a red, yellow, and green dashboard. Wearable software should analyze transmittable data better. This solution’s key lies in combining sensor data and algorithms with artificial intelligence to process information and derive conclusions, says Caressi. Eventually, this modified technology will help medical experts build individualized disease profiles to personalize treatment.
How PD Medication Helps
Patients receive Parkinson’s disease diagnoses at age 60 and up usually, but younger onset cases also occur. Thanks to proper treatment, the majority enjoy long, constructive lives. This incurable neurological condition occurs when dopamine levels in your brain are low. Requip (Ropinirole) acts as a substitute for some dopamine effects to reduce symptoms including shaking, muscle spasms, inability to control muscles, and stiffness.
Try the New Exercise Remedy
The Spanish research group also is working on aural stimulus usage of acoustic patterns and commercial music. They’re integrating these stimuli into a smartphone application so Parkinson’s patients can perform exercises to help improve motor aspects, particularly at-home motions. To monitor patients’ progress, this application uses the accelerometers and gyroscopes that the latest phone models include typically.
Many PD patients avoid exercising because worsening symptoms can may make moving and finishing simple tasks difficult. Keeping his balance while walking became problematic for Gary Sobel, causing trips and falls (see video below). He couldn’t get out of bed or in and out of cars without help. Due to slow reflexes, Sobel couldn’t drive anymore. His doctor, like most several years ago, advised against engaging in physical activities. But after starting PD medication and exercising, moving became easier. Strengthening his muscles and building up his balance helped reduce Sobel’s symptoms.
Now, the medical community has embraced exercise as an effective Parkinson’s therapy. Although it won’t slow disease progression enough to stop medications, Dr. Heather Ene says that exercise can help delay patients’ transitions into disability. Sobel has trained over 100 U.S. instructors on his PD workout methods so other patients can achieve similar benefits.