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Wearable Technology Helps Transform Parkinson's Disease and Patient Care

Monday, August 19, 2019 3:12 PM

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a decade ago, Maria Paz Salas understands all too well the challenges of a neurological disorder with the potential to touch almost every aspect of daily living—from movement and speech to eating and drinking. But few things hold her back from maintaining an active, fulfilling life.

“I like to hike as much as my body will allow,” Salas relayed. “I know I have Parkinson’s disease and I have to be careful, but I can do almost anything that I’ve always done—just more carefully and slowly. It’s almost like living on the ice.”

Maria Paz Salas

Partner on the Journey
For the last six years, NorthShore Neurological Institute movement disorders specialist Katerina Markopoulou, MD, Ph.D., has partnered with Salas every step of the way with medical guidance and support, including the latest advancements in Parkinson’s treatment.

The 54-year-old educator from Rogers Park already underwent deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to help ease her symptoms and reduce some of her medications. And now, Salas is taking advantage of new wearable technology available at NorthShore to more accurately monitor her symptoms—including the presence and severity of involuntary movements and medication effectiveness.

Dr. Markopoulou is one of the first neurologists in the Chicagoland area to offer patients the Personal KinetiGraph or PKG. This watch-like device is worn at periodic intervals during the year to record a patient’s activity.

Technology Advances Care
Data collected through the PKG is sent directly to Dr. Markopoulou to help her better assess how Salas is reacting to medication and DBS adjustments in real-time, so she can adjust accordingly to keep her patient on the most impactful treatment plan possible.

“At a clinic visit, you just get a snapshot in time. But the data from the watch provides a longer window into a patient’s level of activity which is very helpful,” explained Dr. Markopoulou, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

“Dr. Markopoulou is extremely professional and kind. I could tell right away she was an expert in Parkinson’s,” recalled Salas, who said that wearing the PKG is easy and looks like just another smartwatch.

“Wearable devices will become more of a norm as we see the benefits for patients,” added Dr. Markopoulou, who is a frequent participant in national and international meetings on movement disorders. “One of the other advantages of PKG is that the collected data is de-identified to safeguard patient privacy.”

Salas is grateful for the sophisticated care and novel technology that allows her to keep a busy schedule. Along with a challenging job she loves at Chicago’s Sacred Heart Schools, she lives a life full of travel and physical activity with her life partner Kris. “I’m stubborn. I just keep going until I can’t go anymore.”

Stubborn, but Salas also is conscientious about eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and staying positive. “I know it could be much worse for me and appreciate the care that keeps me going.”