Recent UBC study examines the use of wearable health technology and telehealth to treat Parkinson’s disease

Researching wearable tech

A recent study at the UBC has examined the use of wearable health technology and telehealth to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Wearable health technologies are widely popular with people wanting to improve their physical and mental health. Everything from exercise, sleep patterns, calorie intake and heart rhythms can be tracked by a wearable device. Accurate, up-to-date data is also especially valuable for doctors treating patients with complicated health conditions using virtual care.

Dr. Daryl Wile, a movement disorder specialist and SMP clinical assistant professor, routinely uses telehealth to connect with Parkinson’s patients across BC’s Interior.

“Even prior to the pandemic, telehealth helped deliver specialized care to patients living in remote and rural settings,” says Wile, a clinical investigator with the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management.

“But with the complex nature of Parkinson’s, we wanted to enhance these appointments to better understand how movements vary throughout a patient’s entire day."

To further their study, Wile and the research team introduced wearable devices.

“We recruited Parkinson’s patients with either tremors or involuntary movements,” says Joshua Yoneda, SMP student and co-author of the study. “We then divided them into two groups — some using telehealth and device-based health tracking and others attending traditional face-to-face appointments.”

The telehealth group wore devices to monitor their movements, and reported data was then reviewed during telehealth appointments to identify peak times patients experienced Parkinson’s symptoms.

“With the integration of accurate and reliable data from wearable devices, we were able to tailor a patient’s medication to better manage their symptoms throughout the day,” adds Wile.

As part of the study, patients were asked a series of questions from the standardized Parkinson Disease Quality of Life Index. Both study groups were assessed at intervals of six weeks, three months and six months.

In the end, the patients using the wearable devices reported positive experiences and health outcomes in combination with telehealth appointments to access specialized care.

“There’s definitely a strong case to leverage multiple technologies to improve a patient’s quality of life and limit the added stress and cost associated with travel,” says Yoneda.

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