Apple, Eli Lilly, Evidation Health joint study suggests device sensors can spot cognitive decline

Sensors from consumer-grade devices like iPhones, Apple Watches, iPads and Beddit sleep monitors capture enough data to spot mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease dementia, according to a new feasibility study conducted jointly by Apple, Eli Lilly and Company and Evidation Health researchers that was presented today at a research conference held in Anchorage, Alaska.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen how data and insights derived from wearables and mobile consumer devices have enabled people living with health conditions, along with their clinicians, to better monitor their health,” Nikki Marinsek, data scientist at Evidation Health and the study’s first author, said in a statement. “We know that insights from smart devices and digital applications can lead to improved health outcomes but we don’t yet know how those resources can be used to identify and accelerate diagnoses. The results of the trial set the groundwork for future research that may be able to help identify people with neurodegenerative conditions earlier than ever before.”

The 12-week Lilly Exploratory Digital Assessment Study was built on the back of Evidation’s platform for device-driven real-world data collection platform. In it, 31 participants aged 60 to 75 years with cognitive impairment and 82 without were provided with Apple’s devices and an assessment app. These products passively monitored the participants during their everyday lives, with questionnaires and psychomotor, reading and typing assessments delivered through the app rounding out the data collection.

After collecting and analyzing 16 terabytes of information, the team was able to identify several data-driven behavior characteristics associated with symptoms of cognitive decline. These included slower typing, daily first steps that were later or less regular, reduced texting, more time spent in helper apps and worse compliance with daily study surveys.

Smart wearables to unlock the next level of precision medicine

Veronika Vartanova is a mobility researcher at Iflexion, a software development company based in Denver, Colorado. She writes on the latest trends in mobile app development, AR and VR business integration, and mobile-first digital transformation.

Wearables have come a long way from being merely entertaining to bringing in tangible health benefits.

Early on, bands with basic functionality were mostly appreciated by fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes. A few years later, the variety and capabilities of wearables evolved way beyond counting steps taken and calories burnt. Next generations of smart clips, rings and watches expanded their data collection and analytical abilities toward overall health and activity awareness. They began identifying individual patterns related to the user’s mood, sleep quality and vitals.

As soon as wearables became more functional, they evolved from the “sports-only” category to personal smart gear. Such democratization surged the adoption and attracted multiple user groups with goals beyond explicit association with sports and fitness.

Now, wearables are rather trivial, marketed as personal devices for anybody who is interested to make more informed choices about their health and lifestyle. They stand in one row with other essential things some people can’t leave their homes without, such as a wallet, a smartphone, headphones or keys.

This trend of personalized health tracking and wellness awareness fell in line with the value-based care paradigm and its focus on precision medicine. The current healthcare industry aspires to use wearables as a primary data source to create highly personal and flexible patient treatment plans, allowing the introduction of timely therapy modifications based on slight changes in health patterns.