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Parkinson's iTest app up for national iAward

Thursday July 11, 2013

Kate McDonald

Pulse+IT Magazine - An innovative app designed to help people with Parkinson's disease to keep track of their condition and share progress with their neurologists has won the student section of the WA Information Technology and Telecommunications Awards (WAiTTA), and will now go on to compete in the national iAwards next month.

The Parkinson's iTest app, designed by a team of Edith Cowan University computer science students, is designed to work on iPads and other tablet devices to test the condition of a patient and share the results with their neurologist in the cloud.

The project manager and developer of the app, Jose Alvarado, said he and his teammates have been contacted by a number of people wanting to use the app. “Honestly, we never thought this idea had so much potential and people were interested in using the app straight away,” Mr Alvarado said.

“We are currently working on a new version, and we would like to make it available and upload it on the App Store and Google Store next month for testing purposes.

“After that it will have a cost. For now we are working on increasing security, quality and testing the app with more patients and neurologists.”

The tests themselves have been created by a separate team led by Bob Broadway, an IT engineer who has Parkinson’s disease. Mr Broadway designed the tests in Microsoft Excel in collaboration with a research group and his neurologist, but he was looking to convert them to an iPad and improve their look, Mr Alvarado said.

“We wanted to put them on a tablet but we also wanted to go beyond that, so we came up with idea of sharing the results in the cloud,” he said.

The tests include tapping and spiral exercises which demand coordination and control over motor movements. The results can be plotted on a graph and can be reviewed by the user and shared with their neurologist.

Mr Broadway has been trialling the tests for over a year, with his results graphed over time. “He had a surgery and his medication was changed a couple of times, and that is reflected on the graph,” Mr Alvarado said.

“You do your test, and then you can see the results. If you want to share it with your neurologist, you send an invitation, just like Facebook. You invite the user and they will get a notification. They have to accept it, and once they do you have to confirm again so it is secure.

“Once the relationship is established, your neurologist will be able to see and access those results. The results are encrypted and stored on the cloud.”

The team has also added some new functionality, such as allowing neurologists to adjust the complexity of the tests remotely, and following some conversations with a research group at the university's Parkinson's centre, is planning on introducing the ability to capture differences in the test results depending on when medications are taken.

“One of the neurologists told me that after taking their medication, they can sometimes get a bit shaky, so what we want to do is record the last time they took the medication before doing the test,” Mr Alvarado said. “The neurologist will be able to see that as well.”

The team hasn't yet thought about how to market the app, but they will be putting a cost on it – perhaps about $2 – when it is accepted on the App Store. They are also planning to do versions in languages other than English.

In the meantime, the team is up for an iAward, due to be announced on August 8 in Melbourne. The team members are also hoping to continue with their studies, but as all three are international students, they have to get their visas sorted out first.

Mr Alvarado is from Colombia, while team member Adriansyah is from Indonesia and Huihyon You is from South Korea. They all hope to take honours degrees and then perhaps a PhD.

For more information on the app, see www.parkinsonitest.com.

Also up for an iAward is CSIRO's Australian e-Health Research Centre, which one two WAITTA awards – one for research and development into a computer-aided ocular biomarker suite for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, and the other for automated disease grading and clinical decision support for diabetes-related eye disease.

The Northern Territory will be represented by the NT Department of Health and its partner SRA Information Technology, which together have developed the Internet Protocol Patient Monitor Security Access and Reporting System (ISARS) interface, which gives remote patients access to specialist clinical professionals located in Darwin and Alice Springs.

Using a secure closed circuit camera monitoring system over the internet, specialist clinicians are able to support doctors on the ground in remote settings to diagnose and treat acutely unwell patients in a culturally appropriate way.

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