Wearable sensors have become ubiquitous in modern life. Wellness sensors are widely worn, such as activity tracking smart watches, optical pulse rate monitors, smart scales, and more. Every day people use a variety of electronic monitoring devices to attempt to maintain wellness, tracking steps, calories, or sleep duration.
The medical field has also been using remote monitoring sensors for general care for some time, including blood pressure monitors or scales that may report results to a care manager, wearable heart rhythm monitoring devices (such as a “holter monitor”), blood sugar monitors, devices that can detect if an elderly person has fallen, and more.
Moving beyond just primary care, the field of Neurology has been making exciting strides in implementing remote monitoring technology to improve people’s lives and disease outcomes. While remote EEG (brain wave) monitoring has been used in Epilepsy care for some time, a more recent push has been made to implement remote monitoring for the care of people with movement disorders such as Parkinson Disease or Essential Tremor.
Historically, the Neurologist has had to rely on brief patient interactions or subjective reports of “better” or “worse” with regard to symptoms when deciding whether or not to make treatment changes. Standardized tests, such as the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test, have been implemented to try to make it more objective, but this is limited in that it only assesses that precise time.
In contrast, remote monitoring sensors can give objective data over a period of time to the team, allowing for a more comprehensive and detailed idea of how a person is doing.
When used for movement disorders, there are various options for sensors including customized gloves, wrist-based sensors (such as the PKG option that is implemented into a watch), trunk belts, shoe inserts, or more. These can assess oscillations (tremors), movement speed, freezing, and more.
Remote monitoring sensors have the potential to aid both in diagnosis (such as differentiating a postural tremor from a resting tremor) as well as monitoring disease course or response to treatment.
This is truly an exciting time in the field of Neurology. The Neurologist has an expanding toolkit, including remote monitoring devices for movement disorders.