Technology has never played a more important role in our lives than now, with the changes to our social environment and limitations on interpersonal contact. 

The value of digital solutions in helping to facilitate more joined up and responsive working across healthcare practitioners and the people they support is becoming increasingly apparent. 

The importance of self-management is also clear, not only as a means of individuals controlling and directing their own health, but as a form of monitoring symptoms and treatment outside of a clinical setting.

Some of these solutions are more focussed on supporting an optimal response from healthcare professionals whilst others support self-management and increasing education in people living with the condition themselves. This article takes a brief look at the best of both for 2021.

Digital healthcare solutions

Digital platforms like NeuroResponse and ParkinsonCare have really come into their own in the past year or so. ParkinsonCare, the telenursing tool spearheaded by Parkinson’s Academy alumni Dr Francesca Mancini, was utilised in Italy after the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic as a means of supporting and treating Parkinson’s patients remotely, with 265 patients being enrolled in the digital service in the first month of its use, from 11th March. 

NeuroResponse, the brainchild of former MS Specialist Nurse Bernadette Porter, has been trialling rollout for people with MS, starting with the London borough of Barnet. Everyone living with MS in this Borough has been given access to the digital tool which offers 24/7 specialist advice, and resources to support early detection of changes and symptom management including home testing kits for urinary tract infections. 

These digital solutions highlight how feasible a project like the MS Leadership team’s vision for MSUnite is, and can provide living data on the positive implications that a tool like MSUnite could have for people such as the fictitious patient in ‘Esther’s story’.

A partnership across digital social enterprise Reason Digital and four leading health charities, the Stroke Association, Muscular Dystrophy UK, Parkinson’s UK and MS Society, is developing an exciting artificial intelligence coaching tool for people living with these conditions. 

The tool, called ‘the Digital Healthcare Assistant’, uses machine learning to tailor useful information about a person’s condition, how they manage it, their lifestyle, medication, and more. It sends this information, made accessible through easy print, simple phrasing, and use of multimedia formats, through a weekly email.
The web-based tool began development in Autumn 2019 and is being piloted at present. It is expected to be made widely available to people living with Parkinson’, multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy, and with the effects of stroke, from late Spring this year.

There is a huge trend towards health and wellness apps for the general public, many of which can be a useful tool in helping manage a neurological condition, although things like symptom tracking, advice specific to an individual condition and nuanced education are lacking. 

There are also some condition-specific apps either available or in development for neurological conditions. 

MS Connect, developed by consultant neurologist Agne Straukiene, is provided specifically for the MS population in the Torbay area where it was developed, but it is widely available for Apple or Android devices. The app combines virtual appointments, video classes, written information and support, and signposting. It aims to provide a source of trustworthy and accessible information so that people with MS feel informed, supported, and in control of their lives. 

Learn more about the app here

Another exciting app, this time for Parkinson’s, is also on the horizon. ‘NeuroPath‘ is a new digital health platform designed to improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s. The app will prompt the person with Parkinson’s to answer questions about their quality of life,  helping them to monitor their motor and non-motor symptoms in between medical checkups. it will also have functionality to set up medication alerts and view reports.

Although still in its clinical development phase, the vision for this app’s abilities is incredibly positive, as is the feedback it has had from people with Parkinson’s to date. The long term aim is for people using the app to share the data with their healthcare practitioners, for a collaborative approach to managing their health. 

The Stroke Association is also researching technology to increase activity during inpatient rehabilitation with an initial evaluation of a Virtual Engagement Rehabilitation Assistant (VERA), set to report in September this year, which could further extend their digital offering if it is successful.

  

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