The Apple Watch might soon get the ability to monitor people for symptoms of Parkinson’s, thanks to a new technology recently green-lighted by the FDA. The Apple Watch comes with a number of medical monitoring options, including ECG, blood oxygen saturation levels, high and low heart rates, irregular heart rhythm, fall detection, and more. All these features are available in the Watch Series 4 and later, but earlier Apple Watch models have only some of these features.
Parkinson’s tracking has long been part of Apple’s agenda, and was one of the many new research initiatives that the company demoed in 2015. Alongside Parkinson’s, four other health issues that the company was looking to track with its gadgets were diabetes, heart health, asthma and breast cancer. As part of the plan, Apple released ResearchKit, an open-source framework that the company claimed would enable iPhone users to contribute to scientific research about health and medicine.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given clearance to new software that will use existing sensors in the Apple Watch to track Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Called StrivePD, the software has been developed by a San Fransisco-based startup called Rune Systems and uses the Apple Movement Disorder API to track tremors and other involuntary muscle movements using the Apple Watch. The software would use the same sensors that are already used by the watch for its much-acclaimed Fall Detection feature.
Can Apple Watch Truly Help Parkinson’s Patients?
To detect symptoms of Parkinson’s, the Apple Watch data will be combined with data from other sources, such as implants that can measure brain signals. In an interview with Reuters, Rune Labs CEO Brian Pepin said that the company is trying to help doctors better diagnose and treat Parkinson’s patients by using the combined electronic data rather than having to rely on the age-old manual method. Traditionally, doctors gather data on Parkinson’s patients and their movements by manually observing them for a period of time at their clinic. However, this method isn’t only time consuming, it also often fails to yield the proper data as Parkinson’s symptoms can vary significantly over time.
This is exactly where Rune Labs’ new StrivePD software comes it. The company claims that it will provide a “continuous stream” of accurate information over long periods of time, which can then be used by the doctors to fine tune the treatment. According to Pepin, Rune Labs’ software will help patients get optimal therapy for their condition by offering doctors the correct information about whether a particular patient would be a good fit for a particular clinical trial. It will be interesting to see how efficient the new software will be in gathering correct medical data about Parkinson’s patients using the Apple Watch, but it will undoubtedly be a major help if it can actually do what Rune Labs and its CEO claim it can.