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Roche develops app to monitor changes in patients’ MS

Swiss drugmaker Roche has developed a smartphone app called Floodlight which logs multiple sclerosis (MS) patients’ daily actions and records information about them, helping monitor patients’ disease activity.

Floodlight helps monitor changes with a series of active tests. In cognitive tests patients match symbols measuring how quickly information is processed. There are also walking and posture tasks as well as hand tasks. The app also allows passive tests where the smartphone measures small changes in the way patients move, using the smartphone’s movement sensors.

Once patients start using the free app, they can share their results with their doctors, possibly improving their own care. Floodlight, which sends information to Roche, intends to keep the information anonymous, identifying each user only by a unique number.

There are some challenges ahead for the app. Roche needs to convince people to download it and engage with it. A pilot trial into the app which started in the U.S. has only recruited 400 users in five months. The company plans to boost recruitment efforts this Autumn and make the app available in Europe by the end of the year.

And then there’s the privacy issue. While users remain anonymous, Roche gathers partial information such as country of residence, year of birth, height and weight that may be enough for a third party to work out who the participants are in the confined world of people with MS, according to David Choffnes, a computer and information science professor at Northeastern University in Boston USA. Roche says it’s taking “every precaution” to ensure that Floodlight data stays anonymous.

Source: MS-UK 23/10/2018

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