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As part of a pioneering project that looks to revolutionise care, the NHS has given hundreds of patients with Parkinson’s disease “life-changing” smartwatches to allow doctors to remotely assess their condition.

If successful, the project could be rolled out across England to around 120,000 people who have Parkinson’s.

The cutting-edge wearable that contains sensors, known as a Parkinson’s Kinetigraph (PKG), is worn continuously for six days to monitor patients’ movements at home. It buzzes to remind patients to take medication, which they can confirm with a swipe.

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The information the smartwatch collects is relayed to doctors who can look for signs that their medicines need changing, improving quality of life, or that make other interventions such as physiotherapy that can stop the condition from worsening.

As well as giving patients greater independence and reassurance, it is freeing up clinicians’ valuable time, as it means they can easily access a lot of data remotely and act quickly if they spot a potential issue. Additionally, the smartwatch initiative is saving physical space in hospitals to enable more patients to be treated.

NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard said: “Parkinson’s is an incurable illness that has a significant impact on peoples’ lives and this small watch will dramatically improve their quality of life – providing a thorough review of their health and ensuring they get the care they need from the comfort of their own homes.

“Not only is it better for these people living with Parkinson’s, but it is also more efficient for the NHS – freeing up space and time in hospitals for our hard-working staff.

“The cutting edge device is the latest in a long line of world-leading innovations that the NHS is bringing to the frontline as part of our NHS Long Term Plan commitment to use the most advanced technology possible for our patients.”

Doctors can check how their patients are over the course of a week and spot any possible issues, such as excessive movement, immobility and even sleep disturbance. As part of this innovative NHS care, patients are also given a phone number and email to contact directly for support, and their clinician will then see the patient within 10 days – with around four in five of these appointments taking place over video call.

This modern approach to treating Parkinson’s patients from the comfort of their homes was developed in the NHS in Plymouth, together with the University of Plymouth and University Hospitals Plymouth Trust.

Currently, patients are still required to fill out ‘pen and paper’ questionnaires for their doctors, such as to explain possible causes of night-time disturbances that cannot be accounted for by the watch.

An NHS funding boost of half a million pounds is now set to integrate this – as well as all their data and the ability to contact their clinician – into the patient’s electronic records over the next year.

The project around wearable devices for home-based monitoring of patients with Parkinson’s is led by Dr Camille Carroll, an associate professor in Neurology at the University of Plymouth and an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust.

Dr Carroll said: “We have worked directly with Parkinson’s patients to develop the best care possible, including the use of life-changing monitors, known as the Parkinson’s Kinetigraph, which can be worn by patients around the clock to monitor their symptoms.

“This helps to provide reassurance for patients and also means that NHS staff can provide a comprehensive six-monthly review, while also allowing hard-working staff to free up clinical capacity for those who need face-to-face appointments.”

The project is one of 40 that has just been backed by NHS Transformation’s Digital Health Partnership Award.

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