Modern day pensioner. Middle aged woman in glasses hold smartphone focused on screen play game in mobile app chat text online. 

Thanks to a new digital intervention, developed by colleagues from the Centre for Health Technology, people with Parkinson’s and their carers, could soon be able to use their mobile phones to remotely monitor and manage their non-motor symptoms. The mobile app, called NMS assist, could one day be connected to a person’s healthcare team, offering real-time monitoring and guidance.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is typically associated with tremors, stiffness in the body, poor balance and other motor symptoms. But this is not the only way the disease can impact on a person’s health. Other symptoms include sleep disorders, e.g. insomnia, drowsiness in the day and vivid dreams; mood disorders, e.g. irritability, impulsive behaviour, anxiety and depression and a loss of sensitivity in smell and taste.

Yet, clinical services often fail to provide adequate information and support to help people identify and manage these symptoms.

Non-Motor Symptoms (NMS) Assist

Previous Parkinson’s self-help tools are more focused on managing tremors. Our Centre for Health Technology, in collaboration with King’s College London, people with Parkinson’s and their care partners, have designed this online tool to help people manage non-motor symptoms between appointments.

As well as empowering people to take control of their symptoms at home with self-management guides, their healthcare teams will also be able to use the app to access the data in real-time, allowing them to make early interventions.

NMS Assist is the first in its kind to look at these symptoms in this level of detail, and a new study which begins in 2022 will look closely at its impact on people with Parkinson’s.

The study

From March, the clinical research phase of the project, lead by Professor Edward Meinert from the Centre of Health Technology, will recruit 60 people with Parkinson’s and their carers to use the app over 12-months.

Researchers will monitor how they use the app, as well as asking about their experiences. For example, participants 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 since using the service. The study will ultimately seek to investigate its effectiveness at reducing or stabilising non-motor symptoms over this period.

Wider implications

Since the pandemic, clinical services have become increasingly stretched and people with long term health conditions have paid a heavy price. It is hoped that apps like this one will be able to support patients where traditional health services are failing to do so.

Funding for the study comes from Parkinson’s UK. More information about the fantastic work they do in supporting people with Parkinson’s can be found on their website.