An app-based epilepsy study conducted by Johns Hopkins is the first research app created with Apple’s open-source ResearchKit to use the Apple Watch. The EpiWatch app will collect data from patients before, during, and after a seizure in order to improve seizure detection, medication adherence, and patient quality of life.
Gregory Krauss, MD, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Nathan E. Crone, MD, associate professor of neurology, have been working with developers at THREAD Research to build EpiWatch.
“Physicians often ask patients to record their seizures. But that can be hard, especially when a patient loses consciousness. EpiWatch collects data that help researchers better understand epilepsy, while helping patients keep a more complete history of their seizures,” said Dr. Krauss.
The researchers do not yet know exactly how many patients will join the study, but they hope several thousand patients will enroll during the initial study year. “This should allow us to collect enough data from patients who are able to track seizures following auras to reach our initial research goal of developing a seizure detection app for the Apple Watch,” Dr. Crone told Neurology Advisor.
EpiWatch, which is available on AppleWatch and the iPhone, uses several of the AppleWatch’s sensors to monitor physiological changes during a seizure, including the accelerometer, gyroscope, and heart rate monitor. The app is most appropriate for epilepsy patients who experience an aura, warning them of an oncoming seizure. When this happens, patients or caregivers can tap on the app to activate it, and it will begin monitoring heart rate and movements. It will also request that the patient participate in a memory game to evaluate responsiveness during the seizure. It is the first medical research app to include this kind of cognitive test.
Patients who do not experience aura can still make use of the app. “We have designed the app to include activities that patients can use to manage their condition, for example, to keep a log of their seizures broken down by seizure type, whether they had a warning or lost awareness during it, and whether there were any triggers such as missed medications,” Dr. Krauss told Neurology Advisor.
Users can also review their data and compare it to others in their demographic with similar seizures.
The researchers hope that this app will serve as a comprehensive solution for patients to monitor their seizures, allowing them to share the data they’ve tracked with their physicians.
After a year or two of data collection, Dr. Krauss expects that Johns Hopkins will be able to develop an app that can detect oncoming seizures and alert patients, caregivers, and emergency personnel. This has the potential to not only be lifesaving, but to give epilepsy patients more freedom.
“We foresee the app giving some parents the confidence to allow their children to play on their own,” Dr. Krauss said. “For some adults, using it might allow them, for the first time, to live safely alone.”
EpiWatch can be downloaded from the App Store for free.
For more information about EpiWatch, go here.