This month, the National Parkinson Foundation launched its second major smartphone app, Parkinson’s Central. In 2011, the NPF developed and released the first ever Parkinson’s app for docs, the Parkinson’s Toolkit. The instant success and popularity of these smartphone-based apps has proven that Parkinson’s disease has shifted into the technological generation, where patients and families expect information to be instantly available, literally in the palm of their hand. In this month’s What’s Hot column, I will discuss these two Parkinson’s disease apps, and also address the challenges of reaching everyone suffering from this disease, on a worldwide scale.
In October 2011, the NPF announced the much anticipated first major smartphone app in the Parkinson’s disease field. The app’s vision was to aid doctors at the bedside to diagnose and treat Parkinson’s disease. One of the problems that this initial app addressed was that most primary care and other doctors manage only a handful of patients with Parkinson’s disease. The app included modules on the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, planning for the future, and billing. Peter Schmidt, PhD, NPF’s CIO and vice president of programs, pointed out that there are three key ways that physicians consume information, and he and his team addressed all of these in the Parkinson’s Toolkit. “First, physicians can use the app to help them plan what to cover before a patient visit. Second, during the visit, the app addresses diagnosis, emerging issues, and medications. Third, the app provides all the detailed information you may need following a visit.”
The success of the first app, which was aimed at doctors, provided the infrastructure and know-how to design a new app aimed directly at patients, caregivers, and families. Parkinson’s Central provides up to date evidence-based information on diagnosis, treatment, and also information on how to live a better life. The app goes beyond diagnosis and management. It delves into social aspects of the disease, mental health, finances, and overall life management. The app addresses a healthy lifestyle inclusive of nutrition and exercise. It also features a “Near Me” function to help identify practitioners nearby via a zip code search.
Reaching the world with Parkinson’s disease information is a daunting challenge. Recently, with the publication of my book, Parkinson’s Treatment: 10 Secrets to a Happier Life, I learned the challenges of getting the word out to all languages and cultures about Parkinson’s disease care. Though the book is translated into over 20 languages, there are still many people we failed to reach. Innovative solutions such as the Parkinson’s Toolkit and Parkinson’s Central can help us to utilize the technology to reach and to also help more people suffering with this disease.
You can find out more about our National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun, by also visiting the Center of Excellence, University of Florida Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. Dr. Okun is also the author of the Amazon #1 Parkinson's Best Seller 10 Secrets to a Happier Life and 10 Breakthrough Therapies for Parkinson's Disease.