Back to all publications
  • Digital Biomarkers,
  • Transforming Research

Virtual exam for Parkinson’s disease enables frequent and reliable remote measurements of motor function


Sensor-based remote monitoring could help better track Parkinson’s disease (PD) progression, and measure patients’ response to putative disease-modifying therapeutic interventions. To be useful, the remotely-collected measurements should be valid, reliable, and sensitive to change, and people with PD must engage with the technology. We developed a smartwatch-based active assessment that enables unsupervised measurement of motor signs of PD. Participants with early-stage PD (N = 388, 64% men, average age 63) wore a smartwatch for a median of 390 days. Participants performed unsupervised motor tasks both in-clinic (once) and remotely (twice weekly for one year). Dropout rate was 5.4%. Median wear-time was 21.1 h/day, and 59% of per-protocol remote assessments were completed. Analytical validation was established for in-clinic measurements, which showed moderate-to-strong correlations with consensus MDS-UPDRS Part III ratings for rest tremor (⍴ = 0.70), bradykinesia (⍴ = −0.62), and gait (⍴ = −0.46). Test-retest reliability of remote measurements, aggregated monthly, was good-to-excellent (ICC = 0.75–0.96). Remote measurements were sensitive to the known effects of dopaminergic medication (on vs off Cohen’s d = 0.19–0.54). Of note, in-clinic assessments often did not reflect the patients’ typical status at home. This demonstrates the feasibility of smartwatch-based unsupervised active tests, and establishes the analytical validity of associated digital measurements. Weekly measurements provide a real-life distribution of disease severity, as it fluctuates longitudinally. Sensitivity to medication-induced change and improved reliability imply that these methods could help reduce sample sizes needed to demonstrate a response to therapeutic interventions or disease progression.