Helping people with Parkinson’s manage non-motor symptoms at home

People with Parkinson’s could soon be able to use their mobile phone to remotely monitor and manage their non-motor symptoms, thanks to technology in development at the University of Plymouth. A comprehensive digital system, consisting of an app and web-portal, called NMS Assist, will also be connected to the person’s healthcare team, offering monitoring and guidance in the comfort of their own home.

Parkinson’s has more than 40 symptoms, with tremor, rigidity and stiffness being the most commonly recognised. But non-motor symptoms, including bladder problems, insomnia and depression, can have a massive impact on the quality of day-to-day life. Early intervention and treatment can stop them becoming worse but currently, these symptoms tend to be under-reported at medical appointments.

NMS Assist hopes to overcome this by allowing people with Parkinson’s and their carers to keep an accurate record of their symptoms. As well as empowering people to take control of their symptoms at home with self-management guides, their healthcare teams will be able to access the data, allowing them to make interventions between appointments and have better informed conversations.

The research is being led by Dr Edward Meinert, Associate Professor of eHealth at the University of Plymouth, with this latest stage of development being funded by Parkinson’s UK, the largest charitable funder of Parkinson's research in Europe, via its Grants for Non-Drug Approaches. It digitises the Non-Motor Symptoms Questionnaire, developed at King’s College, London, which helps health and social care professionals assess non-motor symptoms in people with Parkinson’s. 
The project’s clinical research phase begins this year when 60 people with Parkinson’s, their care partners and their healthcare team will use NMS Assist for 12 months. Researchers will monitor how they use the system, as well as learn about their experience. They will be asked if they feel more knowledgeable and confident about managing their symptoms and feel better equipped to discuss problems with their healthcare professionals.

Dr Meinert said: 
“Digital interventions are being used more and more in the NHS and beyond, and there are a huge host of benefits that they could bring to people with Parkinson’s, their carers and the health teams supporting them. But we need to make sure they are simple to use, safe, effective and inclusive, so that’s why we’re looking to test this system with people using it every day.
“The Centre for Health Technology at the University of Plymouth aims to make lives easier for people through using technology to improve their health and wellbeing. This system has the potential to enable people with Parkinson’s to better manage their symptoms themselves, and enhance their interaction with their care support and clinical teams. The success of this kind of innovation has the capability to serve as a model of digitally enhanced care, leveraging the internet and mobile technology to enhance communication and connectedness.” 

<p>Dr Edward Meinert, Associate Professor of eHealth, Centre for Health Technology</p>

Research and innovations to monitor Parkinson’s symptoms tend to focus on the motor symptoms, with NMS Assist offering the most detailed look at non-motor symptoms developed in a digital health product. Its potential integration with healthcare teams means it could be a ‘game-changer’, enabling people to get the most out of their appointments with real life data used to start sometimes difficult conversations. 

Co-applicant and Inventor of NMS Assist, Dr Camille Carroll, Associate Professor at the University of Plymouth, and Honorary Consultant Neurologist and Parkinson’s Service lead at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust said:

“Non-motor symptoms have a huge impact on the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s and their care partners. Often people are unaware that these symptoms, such as bladder problems, insomnia and depression, are part of their Parkinson’s and so might not discuss them in a clinic appointment. People are also often unaware that there are simple things that they can do to manage those symptoms themselves. I’m determined to make it easier for people to access the information they need to help themselves, and to allow them to ask for specialist advice when they need it.”

<p>Camille Carroll - Clinical Academic Training</p>

Dr Carroll continued:

People can use NMS Assist to log and monitor their non-motor symptoms, access self-management guides and information, and register their concerns with their healthcare team. We believe that this will help people manage and treat their non-motor symptoms and improve their daily lives.

Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. It’s a complex condition that affects everyone differently. That’s why people affected by the condition have asked Parkinson’s UK to find new ways of monitoring symptoms and personalised treatments as priorities for their research.

Professor David Dexter, Associate Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, said:

“We’re very pleased to be part-funding the University of Plymouth and King’s College’s innovative research on this potentially ground-breaking and game-changing app. What sets this app apart from others, is that it was developed and co-created with people with Parkinson’s and their carers. We are proud to be pioneering person-centred care and funding new research that puts people with Parkinson’s at its centre. 

“By teaming up with two of the cutting-edge e-health and Parkinson’s research institutions in the country, we’re able to invest more time and resources to improve the lives of 145,000 people with Parkinson’s and their carer partners across the UK.”

Centre for Health Technology

Bringing together digital health and health technology expertise from across the University to drive the development, evaluation and implementation of innovative technologies, products, services and approaches to transform health and social care.

Find out more about the Centre for Health Technology
<p>Online tele medicine isometric concept. Medical consultation and treatment via application of smartphone connected internet clinic.<br></p>
<p>Parkinson's disease clinical with ITSMED visual mark</p>

Applied Parkinson's Research Group

The Applied Parkinson’s Research Group, led by Dr Camille Carroll, focuses on clinical trials of neuroprotective interventions in Parkinson’s, digital innovation for care and research, and genetic aspects of Parkinson’s.

Find out more about Applied Parkinson's research