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Developing tools for improving quality of life with people living with Parkinson's
Upper Lobby
Developing tools for improving quality of life with people living with Parkinson's
Davis Phinney
Developing tools for improving quality of life with people living with Parkinson’s Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disease in the world, with as many as 10,000,000 people... Read more

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Developing tools for improving quality of life with people living with Parkinson’s 
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disease in the world, with as many as 10,000,000 people currently living with the diagnosis. This figure is expected to double by the year 2030 largely due to improvements in medical treatment and care that will allow individuals to longer (Dorsey, et al, 2007).

In the recent past, there have been a number of projects that have been undertaken in order to better understand aspects of the disease. From startups and venture-backed projects to multinational initiatives in the European Union with budgets in the millions of euros, technologies have been developed to monitor symptoms in order to optimize medication timing (Lakshminarayana, 2014), improve physical performance (Ginis, 2015) and quantify disease progression and potentially segment the disease into different phenotypes (Sama, et al., 2012; Serrano, et al, 2015).

Parkinson’s disease provides a number of symptomatic components that make it a particularly attractive target for technology and innovation. Some of the most prominent features of Parkinson’s lend themselves well to monitoring and analysis via technology. Tremor, for example, can be quantified with accelerometry (Daneault et al, 2013); in addition, it is typically responsive to dopaminergic medications used to treat the disorder (Buijink, et al, 2012), which provides a mechanism for assessing efficacy of novel compounds and other treatments including surgery as well as nonpharmacological approaches. Other aspects of the disease such as changes in gait (Ginis, 2015), axial mobility (Horak, et al, 2015), vocal volume and quality (Arora, 2015), fine motor control (Stamatakis, 2013) and changes in sleep function (Maglione, 2013) also lend themselves well to identification, assessment and ultimately, quantification via currently available technologies.

Despite this, the technological landscape within the Parkinson’s community is littered with false starts, incomplete ideas, and poor implementation. People with Parkinson’s present with a unique set of challenges that can have a significant impact on their ability to interact with various technologies including issues with fine motor control, visuospatial deficits including decreased contrast sensitivity as well as cognitive changes that can significantly impact the ability to interact with different technological devices.

Developing a product that truly helps people live with the disease requires inclusion of the people living with the disease (the true “experts”) as well as their care partners, health care providers, and others in every step of project design. It is only the consideration of these multifactorial symptomatic influences alongside elements identified by individuals living with the disease that will ultimately lead to design of a successful product that will truly improve quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s.

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