EpiWatch: The bridge to digital health 2.0

July 22, 2016

Researchers at John Hopkins University have developed EpiWatch, an app designed to collect data from patients with epilepsy before, during, and after their seizures and ultimately better understand their condition. The app, which runs on Apple Watch and iPhone, uses the open source ResearchKit framework designed by Apple.

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain in which seizures, caused by abnormal neural activity, disrupt normal brain function. Seizures can vary in their type and severity, sometimes causing convulsions and other abnormal movements, confusion, or loss of consciousness. People with uncontrolled seizures may experience impacts on their independence and quality of life.

The data gathered for the study by the app—including physiological changes, altered responsiveness, and other characteristics of recurrent seizures—will be used by researchers to better understand epilepsy, to develop new methods for (and determine the role of technology in) monitoring and managing the disorder.
 "Physicians often ask patients to record their seizures. But that can be hard, especially when a patient loses consciousness. EpiWatch collects data that helps researchers better understand epilepsy while helping patients keep a more complete history of their seizures," says Gregory Krauss, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The app also provides helpful tracking of seizures, prescription medication use, and drug side effects—activities that are important in helping patients manage their condition."
People are already using and experiencing the benefits of AppleWatch as an augmented, connected health-monitoring tool. The Apple Watch’s health monitor saved a high school football player’s life when it detected early signs of a life-threatening kidney problem.
Johns Hopkins' EpiWatch modules, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store, enable research participants to complete an interactive, informed consent; track their seizures in real time, including prompts on the Apple Watch testing awareness; and answer research surveys and other tasks. Users can review their data and compare their symptoms to others in their demographic with similar seizures.
"Many patients have a brief lapse of awareness during their seizures that may not be apparent to them or to others around them," says Nathan E. Crone, associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine. "EpiWatch allows patients to find out for themselves if this is a problem so they can get more help."

"We foresee the app giving some parents the confidence to allow their children to play on their own," Krauss says. "For some adults, using it might allow them, for the first time, to live safely alone."
For more information on EpiWatch click here.
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