Wearable devices can diagnose, monitor, and manage neurological disorders such as Parkinson disease. With a growing number of wearable devices, it is no longer a case of whether a wearable device can measure Parkinson disease motor symptoms, but rather which features suit the user. Concurrent with continued device development, it is important to generate insights on the nuanced needs of the user in the modern era of wearable device capabilities.
This study aims to understand the views and needs of people with Parkinson disease regarding wearable devices for disease monitoring and management.
This study used a mixed method parallel design, wherein survey and focus groups were concurrently conducted with people living with Parkinson disease in Munster, Ireland. Surveys and focus group schedules were developed with input from people with Parkinson disease. The survey included questions about technology use, wearable device knowledge, and Likert items about potential device features and capabilities. The focus group participants were purposively sampled for variation in age (all were aged >50 years) and sex. The discussions concerned user priorities, perceived benefits of wearable devices, and preferred features. Simple descriptive statistics represented the survey data. The focus groups analyzed common themes using a qualitative thematic approach. The survey and focus group analyses occurred separately, and results were evaluated using a narrative approach.
Overall, 32 surveys were completed by individuals with Parkinson disease. Four semistructured focus groups were held with 24 people with Parkinson disease. Overall, the participants were positive about wearable devices and their perceived benefits in the management of symptoms, especially those of motor dexterity. Wearable devices should demonstrate clinical usefulness and be user-friendly and comfortable. Participants tended to see wearable devices mainly in providing data for health care professionals rather than providing feedback for themselves, although this was also important. Barriers to use included poor hand function, average technology confidence, and potential costs. It was felt that wearable device design that considered the user would ensure better compliance and adoption.
Wearable devices that allow remote monitoring and assessment could improve health care access for patients living remotely or are unable to travel. COVID-19 has increased the use of remotely delivered health care; therefore, future integration of technology with health care will be crucial. Wearable device designers should be aware of the variability in Parkinson disease symptoms and the unique needs of users. Special consideration should be given to Parkinson disease–related health barriers and the users’ confidence with technology. In this context, a user-centered design approach that includes people with Parkinson disease in the design of technology will likely be rewarded with improved user engagement and the adoption of and compliance with wearable devices, potentially leading to more accurate disease management, including self-management.