A professor at King’s College Hospital is helping to develop two new mobile apps aimed at enabling patients with Parkinson’s disease to manage their condition more effectively.
K Ray Chaudhuri, professor of neurology and movement disorders and director of King’s Parkinson’s centre of excellence, is working with two technology firms to develop new technology that allows patients to have a check-up in their own homes.
With the help of a smartphone camera and an app, artificial intelligence technology analyses footage of patients performing tasks such as walking and writing to determine changes in their motion function. In addition, the mobile app allows patients to record and share remotely their symptoms such as their mood, how much pain they are experiencing and sleep patterns. This data is then relayed to a consultant who can use the information to assess whether a patient’s treatment or medication should be adjusted.
Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder and patients typically suffer from involuntary shaking, slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles. They may also develop a range of non-movement problems such as mood disorders and language and memory difficulties.
Patients with Parkinson’s typically attend hospital four times a year for an assessment but Professor Chaudhuri believes the use of this new technology would mean patients would only need to attend a face-to-face consultation once a year.
“Many of our patients come from far away to attend consultations and some need to stay overnight as they aren’t able to travel there and back in one day,” he said. “This technology would allow many of our patients to have a consultation in the comfort of their own home. For patients with Parkinson’s, who can find travelling difficult, this would be a great benefit.
“This is ground-breaking – the aim is for it to become integral to the management of Parkinson’s. It’s not a replacement for a clinician – patients would still come in for appointments, but they would need to do so less frequently.”
Professor Chaudhuri said the technology could also mean doctors can get a more accurate reading of a patient’s symptoms as they can feel more relaxed when they are in their own home.
He added: “Patients can feel stressed when they come to the clinic. It’s not their usual environment, so this may affect their assessment.
“This could also save the NHS money, as there would less need for ward and clinic space if patients do not need to attend hospital as often.”
In the UK there are around 130,000-140,000 people living with Parkinson’s, and the numbers are set to double by 2030, making it the most expensive neurodegenerative disorder in the world. Patients are typically diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 80, although some are diagnosed at a younger age and 10% are diagnosed under the age of 40. One person in 50 over the age of 80 is like to develop this disorder.
Professor Chaudhuri added: “Most patients can now manage their condition because we have very effective medication – treatments that are available here at King’s. People typically live 10-25 years after their diagnosis but because we now have very effective medication they often have a very good quality of life and can continue to work and do other activities that they have always done.”
Professor Chaudhuri is also developing another app with colleagues from across the EU. Iprognosis is designed to detect the signs of Parkinson’s in people thought to be at risk of developing the condition.
“Many patients will have particular symptoms for many years before they go on to develop Parkinson’s,” said Professor Chaudhuri. “The app will monitor those patients by analysing the way they interact with their smartphone or other technology and sending this information to a doctor.” He added that early detection means patients can receive medication that can slow the progress of the disease and manage the symptoms more effectively.