By Kayla Matthews, freelance journalist, Productivity Bytes.
Health-tracking wearables — which include monitoring devices like Fitbits and smartwatches — have entered the mainstream. They are providing both consumers and health care professionals alike with unprecedented amounts of data, ranging from info on heart and cardiovascular issues to sleep quality.
These wearables can also offer unique new datasets that could help us learn more about some of the most difficult-to-treat disorders — like Parkinson’s disease.
A new study has highlighted wearables as a potential method of data-collection in the treatment of the disease and could help with Parkinson’s research. Here is how wearable tech could help us learn more about this disorder.
Wearables Help Patients with Parkinson’s Record Data
The study, published in January in Digital Medicine, highlighted how mobile data-collection devices — like wearables — could improve upon the self-report diaries currently used in the treatment of Parkinson’s. They can provide doctors with better data about patient symptoms.
Right now, in the standard course of treatment for Parkinson’s disease, patients are advised to keep motor diaries, fill out questionnaires or participate in structured clinical exams to keep track of the progression of their symptoms. While these strategies can be effective, they also introduce significant room for error.
The study demonstrated that it can be difficult for patients to commit to keeping a motor diary, which requires an entry every 30 minutes that they are awake.
During the course of the study, 38% of patients who maintained a motor diary missed a quarter of entries and had an average delay of greater than four hours. This could potentially degrade the quality of information available, as they recalled the severity of their symptoms hours later.
Self-reports also contained high numbers of false negatives in involuntary muscle movement. Patients also consistently underestimated the severity of their symptoms.
By comparison, automated wearable sensors provided much more accurate data and were able to record information on symptoms more consistently than any other method of symptom-tracking. Consistent data is especially vital in the treatment of Parkinson’s, where symptom severity can vary significantly from hour to hour.