Smart watches can monitor patients’ movements and send data directly to doctors to check for signs that they may need additional interventions
"The new home-based care included being sent a watch-like movement sensor every six months – a Parkinson’s Kinetigraph – as well as questionnaires to cover non-motor symptoms. The PKG is a fabulous example of getting real-time info, and it sends the data straight to your clinical team.” John Whipps, Parkinson's patient
Patients with Parkinson’s disease are being given smart watches that can monitor their condition in their own home.
Hundreds of patients in Plymouth have already been issued with the watches, which are worn 24 hours a day, six days a week. The watches, which were developed jointly by the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and the University of Plymouth, use a device called a Parkinson’s Kinetigraph (PKG) that monitors a patient’s movements.
The data on the patient’s movements is then sent wirelessly to clinicians who can check for signs that the patient might need additional interventions, such as physiotherapy or a change in medication. Those signs might include excessive movement, immobility or sleep disturbances.
As well as gathering data, each watch buzzes at certain points in the day to remind the patient to take their medication. The patient swipes the watch to confirm they have taken the medication.
From the patient point of view, the device gives peace of mind that their symptoms are being monitored accurately, so they don’t need record it themselves.
At the moment, however, patients with the smart watch are still required to fill out pen-and-paper questionnaires for their doctors to explain possible causes of night-time disturbances that cannot be accounted for by the watch.
Patients are also given a phone number and email to request direct support. Their clinician will then see them within 10 days. About four in five of these appointments take place over video call.
John Whipps, a patient who took part in the smart watch trial, said: “The problem is that Parkinson’s changes from day to day, and even throughout each day. Under the traditional system, you have to remember all your concerns and symptoms between visits, ensure you can attend the appointment, have the stress of getting to hospital on time, and then remember to tell your consultant how you are.”
Whipps took part in workshops to help co-design a new home-based care model: “The result, which really listened to our voices rather than guessing what we need, was a useful pack to help us manage independently, and training to utilise it. The new home-based care included being sent a watch-like movement sensor every six months – a Parkinson’s Kinetigraph – as well as questionnaires to cover non-motor symptoms. The PKG is a fabulous example of getting real-time info, and it sends the data straight to your clinical team.”
The watch, he added, “gives you confidence as you know it gives accurate recordings, and you don’t need to rely so much on your own perception. As the non-motor symptoms begin to be recorded digitally they will also help doctors track those and inform the health care team.”
The Plymouth project is one of 40 to be backed by NHS Transformation’s Digital Health Partnership Award. This provides funding to accelerate the adoption of digital health technologies to support patients with long-term conditions.
As part of the award, University Hospitals Plymouth was given £500,000, which will be used to integrate a paper questionnaire, patient data and the ability to contact their clinician, into the electronic record over the next year.
The smart watch scheme could be rolled out to the 120,000 people who have Parkinson’s across the country.