NHS-funded Parkinson's app improves meds adherence

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Apps that help Parkinson’s patients track and manage their symptoms resulted in better adherence and quality of clinical consultations, according to a new study carried out by the NHS.

The study, funded by the NHS’ Small Business Research Initiative and published in Nature Parkinson’s, enrolled a total of 215 people with Parkinson’s disease – half of which were equipped with the uMotif smartphone app for 16 weeks.

For the NHS, the findings back up its decision to make the uMotif app available to patients back in 2015. The app is estimated to save around £20 million per year in NHS costs.

The app allows patients to create health reports by compiling data gathered from wearables, a daily diary filled in by the user and results from cognitive games. This report can then be shared with their clinician.

The app also notifies users when to take their medication and generates task reminders to help patients stick to their regular routine.

Researchers found that those using the app experienced a significant improvement in medication adherence (~10%) and quality of clinical consultations with their doctor based on their perception of collaboration and involvement in treatment decisions.

“These findings suggest that the PTA (Parkinson’s tracking app) can be useful in improving outcomes and processes of care in people with PD (Parkinson’s disease), similar to results seen in other chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma,” say the study authors.

Currently, follow-up periods for Parkinson’s disease patients are typically around six months. As the study authors allude to, the Parkinson’s tracking app could help improve care for patients between consultations.

Research into the area of mobile app legitimacy in managing conditions has recently led to a split opinion in regards to their true effectiveness. One study investigating Stanford Medicine’s MyHeart Counts app – built using Apple’s ResearchKit platform - found the app vastly improved trial recruitment numbers, but failed to maintain participant engagement.

Another concern is their applicability to different demographics with many people believing app technology can only be fully ‘grasped’ by younger generations. In this instance, the study authors allayed these concerns: “It should be noted that a mean age of 60 in the PTA group was not a barrier for interaction with the PTA, allaying fears that technology-based interventions are not appropriate for an older age group.”


Marco Ricci

20 January, 2017