New App, in Development, Would Help Manage Non-motor Symptoms

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by Steve Bryson, PhD |

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A new app called NMS Assist, designed to remotely monitor the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, is being developed and tested by researchers at Plymouth University in the U.K.

The goal is to offer an application that can track non-motor symptoms — cognitive problems, mood changes, and fatigue, among others — and provide resources to help patients better manage them.

“Non-motor symptoms have a huge impact on the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s and their care partners. [But] often people are unaware that these symptoms, such as bladder problems, insomnia and depression, are part of their Parkinson’s and so might not discuss them in a clinic appointment,” Camille Carroll, PhD, an honorary consultant neurologist and Parkinson’s service lead at the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, said in a press release.

“People are also often unaware that there are simple things that they can do to manage those symptoms themselves,” said Carroll, also an associate professor at the University of Plymouth.

“I’m determined to make it easier for people to access the information they need to help themselves, and to allow them to ask for specialist advice when they need it,” she added.

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In Parkinson’s, the hallmark and best-known signs of the disease are motor symptoms, including tremors, abnormally slow movements called bradykinesia, unexpected rapid movements, or freezing.

But patients also experience a variety of non-motor symptoms, which many do not think are related to Parkinson’s, such as cognitive difficulties, changes in mood — including depression, anxiety, and irritability — as well as insomnia, fatigue, constipation, or urinary problems. Although these symptoms can impact the quality of daily life, they can be hard to monitor and remember from one appointment to the next.

The NMS Assist app, currently in development, has been designed to allow people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers to accurately record their symptoms and access guides to help them better manage the condition.

Researchers hope to have data collected by the app linked to a patient’s healthcare team, which would allow treatment adjustments between appointments in addition to more informed conversations with medical professionals.

“The aim of NMS Assist is for people to log and monitor their non-motor symptoms, access self-management guides and information, and register their concerns with their healthcare team,” Carroll said. “We believe that this will help people manage and treat their non-motor symptoms and improve their daily lives.”

Parkinson’s UK is helping to cover the cost of the most recent stage of the app’s development. That will begin this year when 60 Parkinson’s patients and their caregiving partners will begin a one-year real-world tryout of NMS Assist. Researchers will monitor how participants use the app and learn about user experience. Users also will be asked to report on managing non-motor symptoms and whether they feel more confident discussing such issues with their healthcare team.

“We’re very pleased to be part-funding this research towards this potentially game-changing app,” said David Dexter, PhD, associate director of research at Parkinson’s UK. “What sets this app apart from others, is that it was developed and co-created with people with Parkinson’s and their care partners.”

“We’re proud to be pioneering person-centred care and funding new research that puts people with Parkinson’s at its centre,” Dexter added. “This is essential to providing better treatment and care for the 145,000 people living with Parkinson’s in the UK.”

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