Cognitive assessment app puts Parkinson disease monitoring in patients’ hands

Woman plays Parkinson games on iPad.

Diseases of the brain are different from other diseases in that there just isn’t the technology to monitor patients and paint a holistic picture of the way that symptoms differ over the course of a day, a week, or the months between clinic visits the way there is for diseases of the cardiovascular or respiratory systems.

In the Movement Disorders Clinic at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, neurologists and researchers are working on closing the technology gap to put quantitative assessment in patients’ hands. The clinic, along with the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre, has partnered with game designers at Conquer Mobile to develop a new app designed to engage patients through a series of short games.

“A typical appointment in the Movement Disorders Clinic lasts about an hour,” explains Dr. Martin McKeown, neurologist and Director of the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre. “That’s not long enough for us to get a complete sense of how a person is doing throughout the day. It’s also a place where people are outside their element – we’re not getting people at their most relaxed, at their most comfortable.”

In order to capture a better view of how a patient is responding to treatment and medication schedules, patients play games on their iPad or iPhone that test various measures of cognition.

Between appointments and from the comfort of their homes, patients will be able to play the games and their results are tracked over time. Ultimately, the hope is that the results can be linked with individuals’ clinic charts, so that at each appointment physicians can see how well medication and other treatments are working to manage disease progression and symptoms.

“It will provide a much clearer picture of how people are coping with the disease on a day-to-day basis,” says Dr. McKeown. “The information we collect from these games will help us tailor treatment to individuals and provide better, more personalized care.”

In addition to Movement Disorders clinic patients, the app will be available more generally. The results are anonymized, and people with Parkinson disease will be able to play the games and record their performance over time to share with their own physicians. Data recorded by this anonymized group will provide benchmarking data to compare with patient results and improve the game’s usefulness over time.

Dr. McKeown and colleagues recently piloted an early version of the app at the 2016 World Parkinson Congress.

“We wanted to get feedback from patients, and to test their experience using the app in order to make sure we were on the right track,” says Dr. McKeown.  “What’s unique about this app is that it’s been designed entirely with people with Parkinson disease in mind by our own physicians and researchers. We relied on the expertise of people on the front lines of this disease.”

To receive more information about the app, including how you can get notified once it is available from the App Store, visit cognitiapd.com.