Johns Hopkins University introduces EpiWatch app to collect epilepsy seizure data

Johns Hopkins University on Thursday launched the EpiWatch app, which runs on Apple Watch and iPhone, to collect data through Apple's ResearchKit from patients with epilepsy before, during and after their seizures. "Data gathered by the app, including physiological changes, altered responsiveness and other characteristics of recurrent seizures, will be used by researchers to better understand epilepsy and to develop new methods for monitoring and managing the disease and the role of technology," the university said.

EpiWatch enables participants to track their seizures in real-time and to take part in research surveys, while its journaling function asks users daily questions about their seizures and medication. The university noted the app is best suited for those who experience auras as they or their caregivers can activate the app by tapping an icon on the watch face when the warning sign occurs. EpiWatch can then record heart rate, movements and falls during seizures, using the Apple Watch's integrated heart rate monitor, accelerometer and gyroscope sensors. The app also requests that users participate in a special memory game to evaluate responsiveness during a seizure," making it "the first medical research app to include such a cognitive test," the university said.

According to Johns Hopkins, Smart Monitor's Acuma Health division is providing a secure health informatics platform that protects patient information and provides custom analytics dashboards for researchers. Gregory Krauss, neurology professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, indicated that after a year or two of data collection, the university will be able to develop an app that can detect most seizure types, as well as alert caregivers and emergency personnel, if necessary. Krauss said "this could not only be potentially lifesaving, but also allow people with epilepsy to have more freedom."

Apple's open source software framework, ResearchKit, which the company launched in March, has already been used by research institutions to develop apps for studies on asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

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