Complete News World

A new e-health solution for Parkinson's patients –

A new e-health solution for Parkinson's patients –

Parkinson's disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases worldwide. Sufferers suffer from movement disorders such as tremors, slow movements, muscle stiffness, and balance problems. Memory can also get worse as the disease progresses.

The individual course of the disease cannot be predicted, so experts recommend regular and close monitoring of patients so that they can quickly respond to changes in symptoms. In the ParkProReakt project, researchers from Fraunhofer– FIT, in collaboration with partners, is developing a digital platform and application, combined with wearable devices, to track the course of the disease and aims to improve the quality of life of Parkinson's patients.

Needs-based care

Because getting to a doctor's office is challenging for many patients and trips are often long, especially in rural areas, checkups are sometimes only done every six months or even less often. Often patients and their relatives do not recognize new symptoms, and therefore the treating doctors are not informed.

By developing a web platform and mobile app for smartphones connected to the Apple Watch via Bluetooth, the partners want to create a cross-sector supply model. This means that nursing staff and specialists can exchange information on the platform.

The goal is to achieve better patient care. In addition, caring relatives should feel comfortable that using the digital solution supports them in assessing changes in the course of the disease.

»The application called Active PD is operated by patients after the training phase. “The collected data is transferred to the web platform available to doctors,” explains Daniel Wolferts, scientist at Fraunhofer FIT.

Wolferts and his team are responsible for, among other things, the human-centered design of both systems and are also responsible for the user-friendly design of the respective user interface. » How can an application be designed for Parkinson’s patients? What information would those affected want to receive? How is the data presented in both applications in a way that is user-friendly for all involved, and how are the requirements best met? How can those affected complete the necessary tests and examinations on their smartphones without experiencing physical exhaustion? “We are dealing with these questions.”

Smartphone tests included

The concept is being validated in clinical studies with 170 patients over six months. The intervention group receives the digital solution, and the control group is treated as usual without technical assistance. Patients are asked to take specific, standardized tests related to Parkinson's disease twice a week using the app and a sensor-equipped Apple Watch, which primarily address motor skills and health.

Tests help doctors and caregivers better assess disease-related symptoms and respond quickly with appropriate measures. For example, participants have to complete finger exercises in front of a smartphone camera and tap their index fingers and thumbs together several times in a row as quickly as possible. Image recognition identifies the thumb and index fingers and measures the distance between the fingers during testing.

In another exercise, the fist must be opened and closed with high frequency. The researcher explains: “Due to their illness, those affected find it difficult to perform these movements quickly and fluently.” In addition, sensors are used to check whether participants are able to hold their hands steady for a certain period of time without trembling, which is a challenge for people with Parkinson's disease.

Questions related to well-being complement the tests so you can step in to provide support on an emotional level if necessary. The traffic light system informs the treating physician if the sick person's condition deteriorates significantly. Special events such as falls can also be reported via the app, which is currently in prototype state. “With the digital solution, we hope to be able to give providers better insight into patients’ daily lives and have a positive impact on the quality of life of those affected, so that the concept can be expanded to include other neurological diseases if it works,” says Wolferts.