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We interview the people behind NeuroPath, a new digital health platform designed to improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s

A new app specially designed to help people with Parkinson’s (PwPs) improve their quality of life is set for launch in early 2021.

Called NeuroPath, the app will ask PwPs questions about their quality of life to help them monitor their motor and non-motor symptoms in between medical checkups, while also allowing PwPs to set medication alerts, view reports and more. In the long term, it is intended that PwPs will be able to share any important data with their healthcare providers in order to better manage their health.

We spoke to Benoit Tas, CEO and co-founder of NeuroPath, and Jan Louagie, the company's COO, to find out more.

Why did you develop the NeuroPath app?

Benoit Tas: “Neurodegenerative diseases are awfully underserved from a digital health perspective. I know some people with Parkinson’s, and the current standard care path is sub-optimal, in the sense that they see a neurologist maybe twice a year, the care path is mainly medication-based, it’s very much focused on motor symptoms, and it doesn’t really take into account PwPs’ quality of life and their non-motor symptoms. That’s the real need we want to solve with NeuroPath.” 

Portrait of NeuroPath CEO Benoit Tas
Benoit Tas

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The current care path doesn’t really take into account people with Parkinson's quality of life and their non-motor symptoms. That’s the real need we want to solve with NeuroPath

Benoit Tas
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What stage of development is the NeuroPath app at?

“The app is currently available in a controlled environment. It launched in summer for a control group of PwPs in Belgium, and in October it launched for a control group of PwPs in the UK. We are also partners in two different projects, one in Belgium where we will work with 40 PwPs from the University of Liege, and we are also helping to design the digital care path for PwPs at the University Hospital of Helsinki in Finland.

“We want to keep these PwPs in the loop while we design the tools we are currently testing, as well as in the future when we add features to the platform.”

How would a PwP use the app?

“The first thing is to fill out a profile, which asks for personal details – your date of birth, the year you were diagnosed with Parkinson’s – and you create a security code.

“The second functionality is the medication diary, so the patient fills out the medication details and timings and when that time comes, the PwP gets an alert on their smartphone and they then need to confirm that the medication has been taken and whether it has been taken at the right time. If a PwP takes their medication, let’s say, half an hour late, he or she may suffer from an ‘off’ state for much longer than if the medication is taken on time, so it’s important.

“The next functionality is questionnaires on the PwP’s quality of life. We’re currently using a clinically validated patient reported outcome measure developed by Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, whereby the PwP answers questions on up to 22 different areas relating to their physical, mental and social health.”

Jan Louagie: “We’re using seven topics, so, for instance, sleep is one, and each topic has between five and eight questions a day. You get an alert with the questions and enter the answers – it’s an easy setup and it takes about one minute. We do it on a weekly basis so the same topic is repeated, but we plan to give clinicians and PwPs the chance to choose their own questions, because if you don’t have any sleep issues, you don’t need to answer questions about it – there might be other things that are more important for you.”

Portrait of NeuroPath COO Jan Louagie
Jan Louagie

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You get an alert with the questions and enter the answers – it’s an easy setup and it takes about one minute

Jan Louagie
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Benoit Tas: “The fourth functionality is a notebook or a diary, which patients love because usually when a patient visits their neurologist, they do a motor test and the neurologist will ask one or two questions about non-motor symptoms, such as ‘Did you sleep well last week?’. Often that’s not representative of how the patient has been over the previous six months, so in this notebook the PwP – or their partner or carer – can jot down any events or symptoms or feelings that were occurring on a specific day and it’s all time-stamped; so it’s a way of digitising the story of the patient over those months in between consultations.

“Also, a PwP can link his or her profile to a carer or a partner, so a husband can decide to link to his wife or vice versa because we will ask the care partner the same questions about the PwP’s quality of life in order to compare both answers.

“In future, we plan for all of the functionalities currently on the app to be voice-activated. Also, during 2021, we plan for the app to provide simple voice therapy exercises for PwPs.”

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In future, we plan for all of the functionalities currently on the app to be voice-activated

Benoit Tas
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Does the app create reports based on the answers given?

Jan Louagie: “The dashboard lets you see data in two different ways – there’s a spider graph where we have an overview of the different symptoms, with views from the PwP and from the partner – so you can see any differences. You can choose the time frames you want to see. There are also line graphs that go into more detail on a topic, so if they want to look at their sleep they can see a line graph for the period they have requested. They can ask for a code for their neurologist, we create a code in the back end, the clinician registers and they can access the PwP’s data, or a PwP can get a pdf and print it out for their next consultation.”

Benoit Tas: “The end game is that, based on the data that the PwP and their partner provide, we’ll be adding alerts, we’ll be detecting events, we’ll be flagging them to an interdisciplinary team of care professionals around the PwP. The PwP will decide what data to share with whom.”

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The end game is that we’ll be detecting events and flagging them to an interdisciplinary team of care professionals around the person with Parkinson's

Benoit Tas
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What sort of feedback have you had from PwPs?

“The feedback is excellent. PwPs say, ‘We’re absolutely motivated to do this, we’re motivated to share our data, but of course we need to ensure that our care professionals are doing something with that data.’

“They say, ‘The fact that I can link to my partner helps her to understand much better how I react during the day, why I do certain things the way I do – it helps me to explain to my family what’s going on with me. It helps me to record things that I always forget, and that I can share with my neurologist.’”

Jan Louagie: “PwPs also love that it takes only a couple of minutes a day.”

Further reading:

Do you think using an app like NeuroPath could be useful for you? Email info@epda.eu.com and tell us your thoughts.

The EPDA is sharing this article for information purposes only; it does not represent the EPDA’s views and is not an endorsement by the EPDA of any particular treatments, therapies or products.

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