Past events Sigpat

Parkinson‘s and Technology Series of Events


Special Interest Group on Parkinson’s & Technology (SIGP@T) &

Dundee Research Interest Group (DRIG)

Since James Parkinson’s essay on the shaking palsy, written over 200 years ago, many advances have been made. There are however open issues regarding Parkinson’s disease: the cause (still unclear), diagnosis (one of the most misdiagnosed conditions), treatment (still predominantly levodopa, unchanged since the 60s), and the evasive cure, all of which require further research.

We know that technologies, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, wearable devices, phone apps, etc., offer unprecedented potential when it comes to dealing with chronic conditions like Parkinson’s. To fully harness this potential however, we need joined-up-thinking with all concerned.

As part of this process, this series of events focused on using technology to help:

● manage the condition (e.g., through better administration of medication),

● manage daily life (e.g., through reminders, dictation software), 

● better support specialists (e.g., through continuous monitoring and feedback).

This, against a backdrop where: people with Parkinson’s numbers are increasing; the condition is highly complex (there are many symptoms); and no two people are affected the same way.

Technology too has its challenges: costs, privacy (including data protection), legal aspects, apprehension (including use of artificial intelligence), and ease of use, not to mention long-term commitment of developers. Nonetheless, it can facilitate integrated (multi-disciplinary) solutions to manage medication and quality of life and allow people with Parkinson’s to participate more readily in research projects.

Intelligent technological solutions can fit into three broad categories:

  1. Specialist only (e.g., proposed new device that detects presence of ‘Parkinson molecules’ sebum study, University of Manchester; DAT scanners/nuclear tracing, using artificial intelligence on brain scans, data mining, …),
  1. People with Parkinson’s only (e.g., quality of life apps, such as reminders, balance helpers, information purveyor, …),
  1. Specialist and people with Parkinson’s (e.g., feedback mechanisms regarding treatment, symptoms and environment, using body-worn sensors, for instance).

The focus of the events’ discussions was on 2) and 3), with a key concern expressed being health deterioration as a result of sub-optimal medication management. Using technology, consultations and research results gathering can take place on data accumulated, including metric measurements. The whole process can allow continuous and remote monitoring possibly allowing more options for telemedicine, thus delivering a paradigm shift in the provision of healthcare. In addition, the use of intelligent solutions allows the detection of critical developments and early or timely intervention.

Most people with Parkinson’s are willing interlocutors and participants on issues relating to Parkinson’s disease; many are open to new solutions, especially technological ones where the potential is vast, however one message has been clear, whatever the innovation there should be co-design between patients and specialists to ensure such issues as clarity of purpose and ease of use. One must bear in mind though, that the solutions can be less of a challenge, the bigger one being to ensure the right questions are being formulated.

The next step should be aimed at unleashing the potential for intelligent technology solutions to key current Parkinson’s issues.

In order to best achieve this, we require a knowledge and information hub between Parkinson’s patients and the specialists, particularly those involved with research and development. With this in mind, a dedicated team, not limited to any organisation or institution, could:

  • Build a knowledge base of devices, apps, gadgets and sensors that use intelligent solutions;
  • Watch the market for the appearance of interesting or related solutions;
  • Find people with appropriate knowledge to join or support the team;
  • Keep the Parkinson’s community informed through events, publications and by website; and
  • Stimulate the development of new and exciting intelligent solutions.

The organisation of the three above mentioned events has been a clear first step in this highly promising direction.

Above all it is essential to identify the products or ideas which can be agreed to be worth pursuing in order that the limited research funds available are concentrated on the most promising ideas and products. Such a hub could help fulfil this role.

Brendan Hawdon

By Werner

Location: Scotland
Profession: Retired
Hobby: Photography
Parkinson Patient

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