How AI Is Creating The Next Generation Of Treatment For Parkinson’s Disease


Every hour of every day a person in Australia is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a brain disorder that will impact everything they do and for which there is no known cure. 

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease three years ago. I stepped down, just a few weeks ago, because of the disease.”

Mark Hettler, former Head of Partner and Channels, SAP ANZ

PD is what’s known as a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. It affects a patient’s whole-body and is often characterised by tremors, stiffness and rigidity, and slowness of movement. It is the country’s second most common neurodegenerative disease, impacting more than 100,000 Australians and with over 30 new cases diagnosed every day.  

Because there’s no cure for PD, “the biggest challenge in managing patients is achieving adequate symptom control,” according to Dr Yun Hwang, a neurologist who works on the Central Coast of New South Wales. This requires clinicians to accurately assess fluctuations in patients’ symptoms.

Yet, despite the scale of the disease and the focus some famous patients have brought it, there has been little innovation for PD for many years. 

“The diagnostic process and treatment principles of Parkinson’s Disease has not changed significantly since the 1960s.” 

Dr. Yun Hwang, Neurologist

That’s why SAP and DXC Technology partnered with a team of clinicians, led by Dr. Yun Hwang, to create DXC Tele-Parkinson with SAP BTP, a new solution to manage PD. The idea uses the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to revolutionise patient care, bringing a new era of personalised, accurate, and efficient management to Parkinson’s Disease. 

The Parkinson’s Disease Spiral Research Project: A Leap Forward in Patient Care 

Parkinson’s Disease treatment normally involves medication that works to improve patient’s symptoms. However, the effects of the medication are not consistent, and patients experience fluctuations in symptoms throughout the day, and over time.  

Parkinson’s Disease patients experience “on” periods where their symptoms are well controlled, and “off” periods where their symptoms are suboptimally controlled. Clinicians need to understand these fluctuations to treat patients’ symptoms more accurately, and managing them is an important challenge in the long-term treatment of PD.3 

Currently, clinicians examine patients using various assessment techniques including physical examination, handwriting tests, and movement analysis. For example, one way to demonstrate whether a patient is in an ‘on’ or ‘off’ state is drawing a spiral using pen and paper.​ These methods help clinicians to understand a Parkinson’s Disease patient’s symptom control. 

But the problem with many of these techniques is that tests were only done during clinician appointments – a single point in time. That meant clinicians lacked an understanding of the patient’s entire experience outside their clinics.  

“When I was diagnosed I didn’t know much about Parkinson’s Disease. My GP couldn’t pick it but my neurologist identified it straight away. That’s because there’s no blood test or brain test, it’s all based on clinical observation.”

Mark Hettler, former Head of Partner and Channels, SAP ANZ

In 2020, the New South Wales Health Central Coast Local Health District approved the research project “Parkinson’s Disease Spiral Analysis Project (PD-SAP).  The intent was to deliver a digitised solution for Parkinson’s Disease patients, carers, and clinicians to enable the collection of spiral tests and associated metrics from patients outside clinical appointments.  

DXC Tele-Parkinson with SAP BTP: A Digital Revolution for Patients and Clinicians 

DXC Tele-Parkinson with SAP BTP is an AI-powered mobile application which transforms care for Parkinson’s Disease patients and clinicians. Patients simply draw a spiral on a piece of paper, snap a photo, and let the artificial intelligence (AI) take over.  

The AI algorithm delves into the spiral’s nuances, assessing elements like line shakiness and crossings, while also capturing additional data such as mood, blood pressure, sleep patterns, and medication. The AI engine is therefore able to determine a patient’s “on” or “off” status.  

SAP partner DXC created the solution and developed the user interface, while SAP created the AI model and algorithm. SAP’s Business Technology Platform (BTP) serves as the foundation for the app, allowing the solution to be deployed on desktop for clinicians and mobile for patients and their caregivers. BTP enables patients to securely upload data multiple times a day. This wealth of information allows clinicians to monitor patients’ progress and adjust treatments as needed. 

By integrating AI technology into the clinic room, Tele-Parkinson empowers clinicians with a deeper understanding of patients’ movement and symptom control. The wealth of data and real-time insights lead to faster, more informed decisions, and a more effective healthcare system.  

Unlocking New Possibilities: The Benefits of DXC Tele-Parkinson with SAP BTP 

Tele-Parkinson marks the first step in bringing AI into PD care.  

“I think this is an essential evolution in the management of Parkinson’s disease” – Associate Professor Scott Whyte, Neurologist

Tele-Parkinson has the power to the improve the lives of those living with PD. Patients are empowered to understand their disease and take an active role in their well-being.  Tele-Parkinson also has the ability to improve the accessibility of PD care, especially for those in remote or regional locations.  

As Dr. Yun Hwang notes, “It will save some of these individuals whose ability is impaired by Parkinson’s disease, and perhaps reduce their travel burden. Instead of having to see a neurologist face to face, they can have many data points that they can present to the neurologist which can be done remotely.”  

The collaboration between SAP and DXC has unlocked a new world of possibilities for Parkinson’s patients, carers, and clinicians alike. Armed with real-time insights and a profound understanding of each patient’s unique journey, clinicians are empowered to craft treatment plans tailored to the individuals needs and aspirations.  

“You don’t get better from this disease. All you can do is manage it. So what we can do to help diagnosis and treatment is so important, because it affects my life.”

Mark Hettler, former Head of Partner and Channels, SAP ANZ

As new management paradigm emerges – one that places patients at the heart of their own care journey, accompanied by AI.