By Sarah Eitzman and Aura Oslapas
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you to the authors of this article: Sarah Eitzman is a retired pediatrician who volunteers at Mountain View high school for the “Just Read ” program. She is also a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for Santa Clara County. Aura Oslapas has over thirty years experience as a design leader, strategist and creative director.
Overwhelmed by all of the options for smarphone apps? Recent studies show that most people only use 3-5 downloaded apps on their smartphones. The most commonly used apps are typically in the categories of social media (such as Facebook,) music and gaming. There is incredible potential to improve the quality of life with Parkinson’s disease by using apps to improve daily productivity, sleep, fitness, and management of medications and many other activities.
In order to investigate how people with Parkinson’s disease use technology related to smartphone and tablet apps, we created a survey that attempted to look at how smartphone and tablets are used and which apps were perceived to be helpful. We also asked about which symptoms and daily activities would be helpful to monitor, and how respondents currently monitor medications, symptoms and appointments. The survey was distributed to members of several Parkinson’s disease support groups.
A survey of 61 responses
We received 61 responses. The respondents were 88% female, with the average age of 66 years, and time since diagnosis was on average 9 years (median 7 years). Daily smartphone or tablet use was 86% among the group taking the survey. Helpful apps listed by users included iPhone Health (a preloaded app), and apps related to wearable technology (Apple Watch, Fitbit and Garmin). Sleep applications included sleep cycle, sleep talk, sleep pulse, and sleep time. Google calendar was used for calendars and lift pulse for tremor. Smartphone and tablet settings deemed helpful included voice activated transcription and reminder alarms.
When recording appointments about half of the respondents kept a written record and half recorded appointments with a smartphone. While many people did not record symptoms or medications, those that did (about half of the responses) most often kept a written record, with a slightly lower number using smartphones to keep track. These numbers may indicate a willingness to use smartphones to keep records of symptoms and medications if the process of doing so was easy and readily accessible. The symptoms and activities most people wanted to track included: exercise, sleep, medications, on/off symptoms, tremor and stiffness.
With these findings in mind, we have looked at several apps available and have some recommendations.
What’s Readily Available
The easiest advice is to use what you already have. Under the category of exercise, most smartphones do have a preloaded app that will count steps. If you carry your phone with you, you can monitor this activity.
The iphone app is called Health.
The Samsung Galaxy S Health app is also preloaded and will count steps.
We have 2 Parkinson’s disease specific app recommendations, both of which are part of clinical trials to collect data on people with Parkinson’s disease. These apps will allow you to view your data on a dashboard after you have entered the data. They are also able to link with your preloaded health app to use data on steps counted and other information you may choose to enter.
Umotif is available on iphone and android smartphones. It seeks to measure 10 aspects of Parkinson’s disease and they ask for 100 days of participation. After you download the app it will ask for a code, but you can continue to register without a code. The study preloads 5 symptoms to monitor, and you choose the other 5 symptoms from a list. You will not be able to change your symptoms after you choose them, so choose carefully.
Myhealthpal is available only for the iphone. It is fairly easy to use. I [Sarah] did have to enter my medications twice initially before it accepted the entry.
The other apps we have chosen for trials are based on the survey results
Sleep cycle is an app that allows you to monitor sleep, it also gives tips on how to improve your sleep. This app is available for both iphone and android smartphones.
Lift pulse is an app to try if you would like to monitor your tremor and have an android smartphone. This app is not available for iphone.
If you would like to help us review these apps, we ask that you use them daily for at least 1-2 weeks. Use the link below to give us your feedback. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8CP65Y7
Fun and Helpful
For those who use music to exercise, our friends recommended 2 apps that help with synchronizing your music to appropriate tempos for walking and cycling. Both apps also state you can change the tempo for interval training.
About Parkinson’s Women Support: The mission of Parkinson’s Women Support is to offer moral support, encouragement and camaraderie for women who are Parkinson’s disease patients. Check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/parkinsonswomen