According to a report from Fast Company, Apple is looking into how the iPhone and the Apple Watch may someday be used to monitor people with Parkinson’s disease.
Many patients with Parkinson’s disease only see their doctor every six months or so. That’s a problem as symptoms might have improved or worsened between visits, which might mean that they’re on the wrong dose of medication for months at a time.
Apple is internally conducting research into whether its devices, the iPhone and Apple Watch, can be used to passively monitor data in real time on the well-being of patients suffering from the disease, three sources tell Fast Company. And it is hoping to build an evidence base to demonstrate the effectiveness of mobile monitoring.
Though Apple has not commented on this research publicly, three different sources have spoken to Fast Company about it. So what role would the Apple technology play? Bay Area-based neurologist Diana Blum explains:
“You could use mobile technology to monitor tremors and slowness—and maybe even stiffness and balance, but that’s more complicated,” says Blum. Some of people with Parkinson’s that Blum treats aren’t “tremor predominant,” and would be harder to track through a smartphone. But for other patients, monitoring the severity of their tremors and their walking speed through sensors embedded in the phone could be an important window into their condition between visits.
While Apple has lately turned its marketing strategy to emphasize the Apple Watch’s fitness-enhancing abilities, the idea of the Apple Watch being part of enhancing our overall health and managing debilitating diseases is exciting. I hope to hear more definitive progress in this area in the months and years to come.