Patients with epilepsy can now track their seizures using an app downloaded onto their Apple Watch.
The interactive EpiWatch app, developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland,, works with ResearchKit, an open-source framework designed by Apple to facilitate research studies carried out using its devices.
The information that's collected by patients with epilepsy will eventually be used to develop a seizure detector, said Nathan Earl Crone, MD, co-director, clinical neurophysiology fellowship program and associate professor of neurology.
The interactive app enables patients to track seizures in real time. After downloading and installing the free app, patients are provided with a unique code. When they get an indication that they're having a seizure, they simply activate the function, and the app continuously collects gyroscope, accelerometer, and heart rate data.
The coded data are uploaded to a server. None of the patient's personal information is identifiable, said Dr. Crone.
At the end of the seizure, patients are given a short quiz asking about what kind of seizure they just had, how long it lasted, and whether they had a warning, "although by and large if they activated the app, they did have a warning," said Dr Crone.
The app also has "built in" surveys gathering information on medication adverse effects, adherence, and seizure triggers, he said. Its journaling function prompts users to answer a series of questions on a daily basis, including: Have you had a seizure today? If so, what type of seizure was it? Did you take your medication? If not, why not?
"It's very interactive" and includes text messaging capabilities, said Dr Crone. If patients don't respond to a vibration or sound alert asking them to verify they're having a seizure, a message can be sent to a family member or caregiver.
Users can review their data and compare their symptoms to those of others in their demographic with similar seizures.
All this will be useful information for researchers. Dr Crone and his colleagues will be using a "research dashboard" to keep tabs on how many patients are getting the app and how many seizures they're tracking. "We will looking at the data as it comes in."
Researchers aim to eventually use the data to develop a seizure detector that will be included in the app. Such a detector should come in handy in determining whether a seizure was falsely detected, said Dr Crone.
Over 2.5 million people are living with epilepsy in the United States. Any of these patients older than age 16 years could take advantage of the new app, said Dr Crone.
He would obviously like as many of these patients as possible to use the seizure tracker.
"Honestly, if a couple of thousand patients were to use it and actively contribute seizure data, it would be a success in my eyes. But I'm hoping that we will do even better than that."
The app also works with the iPhone, but users won't be able to participate in all research activities, said Dr Crone.
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Cite this: Epilepsy App Tracks Seizures - Medscape - Oct 15, 2015.