Applications for smart phones and tablets are a ubiquitous reality in today’s world. They allow us to listen to music, find our place on a map, buy gifts, play games, and even organize our lives. The sky’s the limit, it seems, in what these “apps” will one day be able to accomplish.
This week, an Australian researcher has been commended for work on an innovative such “app” that could impact the community of people with Parkinson’s in particular in the not-so-distant future: He has designed a program to track a person’s experience with PD.
According to Pulse+It magazine, Jose Alvarado, a student from Edith Cowan University (ECU), has been named as a finalist in the 2013 Western Australia Information Technology and Telecommunications Awards, an annual event celebrating the best in computer science of that region Down Under.
Alvarado has developed an app that he says Parkinson’s patients could use on their own to monitor their symptoms at home, and then send the results of such tests to their physicians. An information technology engineer with PD helped Alvarado to develop the particular tests that patients would perform using their tablet device, such as finger tapping. He has named the app “The Parkinson iTest.” It remains to be seen if the app could eventually make it to market.
“Our main goal is to ensure that patients communicate and share their results with their doctors between each appointment,” said Alvarado, whose grandmother had Parkinson’s disease.
Alvarado’s stated goal, and the milieu in which he hopes to accomplish this goal, both resonate with The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF). Just this past spring, the Foundation launched a $10,000 Data Challenge to spur ideas for developing practical applications for Parkinson's patients that use smartphone-collected data.
The hope? To find technology-enabled strategies to improve feedback between doctors and Parkinson’s patients toward increasing patient well-being and lower long-term costs of care
Data Challenge winner LIONSolver, Inc is working to develop a “machine learning” approach to better diagnosing and monitoring PD; machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence which allows computers to improve their own predictions by learning from the data itself.
“Our team believes that training computers to evaluate and respond to data from mobile devices can improve the feedback between doctors and patients with Parkinson's,” Drake Pruitt, the CEO of LIONSolver, told MJFF in April.
“For example, a doctor could gauge patient's symptoms such as tremors via smartphone data, rather than relying on written diaries or interviews with patient caregivers. We think this can improve patient well-being, while also reducing the long term costs of care delivery.”
While an app that can truly help your physician to work with you to monitor the symptoms of PD is still in the future (including Alvarado’s), in the meantime we encourage you to check out these four existing apps that can help you to manage your experience with Parkinson’s.
Stay tuned to this space for further updates into projects developing technology to improve the lives of those living with PD.