Patent suggests a future Apple Watch may help doctors treat Parkinson's

Apple Watch Series 5
Apple Watch Series 5 (Image credit: iMore)

Apple Watch Parkinson's patent

Apple Watch Parkinson's patent (Image credit: Apple Insider)

What you need to know

  • A new Apple patent shows an Apple Watch helping monitor Parkinson's.
  • The technology could help doctors track symptoms.
  • It could also be used in other devices, not just watches.

A newly discovered patent suggests that a future Apple Watch might be able to help doctors monitor the symptoms of Parkinson's patients. As a result, they'd also be able to improve their treatments, too,

US patent number 20190365286 describes the feature, along with Apple's reasoning for adding it in the first place.

"There are an estimated 600,000 to 1 million cases of Parkinson's Disease in the United States and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year," says the filing as it describes the symptoms suffers deal with. "Symptoms of PD include... tremor and dyskinesia. Dyskinesia is an uncontrollable and involuntary movement that can resemble twitching, fidgeting, swaying or bobbing."

Unfortunately, the treatment of Parkinson's can also cause the symptoms to change and worsen, requiring the medication to be altered. The problem is that doctors rely on clinic-based tests and patient reports in order to make those calls.

"A patient's quality of life is largely dependent on how precisely clinicians titrate and schedule the patient's medications to minimize the patient's symptoms. This is a challenge for clinicians because each patient has a different combination of symptoms that can change and become more severe over time. Also, in any given day the symptoms may fluctuate based on medications, food intake, sleep, stress, exercise, etc."

The patent describes a series of sensors that will detect movement. That data will then be analyzed by the Apple Watch using the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS). By doing that, the data can be collected more accurately and it doesn't require the patient to keep tabs on their symptoms in order to better their treatment.

While the most obvious use for this technology would be in an Apple Watch – an image attacked to the patent shows an Apple Watch, too – Apple doesn't specify that this would be Apple Watch-only. That could potentially mean that an iPhone could be used, as could the Apple ring that we saw a patent for recently, too.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.