Archive for February, 2019

Boston University Study Demonstrates that mHealth-Supported Exercise Program Benefits People with Parkinson Disease

Boston University Study Demonstrates that mHealth-Supported Exercise Program Benefits People with Parkinson Disease

Boston, MA – February 7, 2019 – The randomized controlled pilot study used the Wellpepper patient engagement platform to examine the comparative effectiveness of mobile-health-supported exercise compared with exercise alone for people with Parkinson disease.

Key Points:

  • The comparative-effectiveness study, which took place over a 12-month period, was published in the February 2019 issue (Volume 99, Issue 2) of the journal Physical Therapy.
  • It is among the first randomized controlled studies to clinically validate the use of digital health tools in supporting improved patient outcomes.
  • The study positively demonstrated the impact of a digital intervention on people with Parkinson disease who were evaluated as sedentary during study enrollment. People with Parkinson disease who were less active when they entered the study, and who used the Wellpepper application during the 12-month period, showed a statistically and clinically significant improvement in their overall mobility scores compared to similar individuals in the control group without the digital intervention.
  • The study was led by Terry D. Ellis, PT, PhD, Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training and Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University with a research team from Boston University, the University of New England and Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School (see full list of authors below).
  • Ellis is continuing research in this area at two sites with an NIH-funded clinical trial to further determine the effectiveness of a “connected behavioral approach” against a control group in increasing real-world walking activity in persons with Parkinson disease. The study is onboarding the first subjects this month (February 2019).

“Behavioral change strategies provided through mHealth applications such as those delivered by Ellis and colleagues provide a promising theoretically based and practical approach for helping people with PD (and possibly other chronic disabling conditions) to successfully engage in sustained exercise behavior over the long term,” said Alan M. Jette, PT, PhD, FAPTA and editor in chief of Physical Therapy in an editorial. “As the rehabilitation field shifts from traditional approaches to digital platforms in delivering behavior change interventions, an mHealth application like the one examined in the Ellis et al study holds promise in increasing the reach and scalability of physical therapist services in the digital age.”

This VIDEO demonstrates how the technology was used.


Declining physical activity commonly occurs in people with Parkinson disease (PD) and contributes to significantly reduced functional capacity and overall quality of life. Previous studies have demonstrated the benefits of exercise and physical activity in reducing disability and enhancing quality of life in people with PD.

This study was designed to explore the effectiveness, safety and acceptability of a mobile-health-mediated exercise program in promoting sustained physical activity in people with PD. Essentially, the Wellpepper mobile patient engagement application became a tool for motivating and monitoring behavior change.

There were 51 participants in the study, all of whom had mild-to-moderately severe Parkinson disease. They were divided randomly into two groups – mHealth and active control – and each group was further subdivided into those who were more active when they came into the study and those who were more sedentary.

Over the course of one year, the mHealth group’s outcomes were compared with those of an active control group, looking at daily steps, moderate-intensity minutes and other measures of activity and mobility. Evaluations were made at the beginning and again at the end of 12 months and exercises were provided by physical therapists with expertise in PD.

  • mHealth: The mHealth group participated in a technology-mediated exercise program that included walking with a pedometer and engagement in exercises. The Wellpepper mobile patient engagement application was used to provide the take-home exercise instructions (along with videos of each person doing their own exercises in proper form), ongoing text-based communication and support (e.g. changing exercises over time to accommodate progress or health changes) and tracking of physical activity and adherence. Ttracking was visible to participants to monitor their own progress and to researchers.
  • Control: The active control group walked with a pedometer, received paper-based exercise instructions and tracked their activity in a paper calendar.


At the end of one year, both groups had increased their daily steps, moderate-intensity minutes and 6-Minute Walk Test, however the Parkinson Disease Questionnaire 39 mobility scores among the subgroup who were less active prior to the study demonstrated a statistically and clinically meaningful improvement.

An abstract of the study is available HERE and the full study can be made available to media upon request. Editorial overview of the study is also available.

Study Authors:

Terry D. Ellis, PT, PhD, Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University; JamesT. Cavanaugh, PT, PhD, Department of Physical Therapy, University of New England, Portland, Maine; Tamara DeAngelis, PT, DPT, Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University; Kathryn Hendron, PT, DPT, Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University; Cathi A. Thomas, RN, MS, Department of Neurology, Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, Boston University; Marie Saint-Hilaire, MD, Department of Neurology, Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, Boston University; Karol Pencina, PhD, Research Program in Men’s Health, Aging and Metabolism, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; and NancyK. Latham, PT, PhD, Research Program in Men’s Health, Aging and Metabolism, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

About Boston University Center for Neurorehabilitation

The vision of Boston University Center for Neurorehabilitation is to lead the development of evidence based, innovative, theory-based approaches to the rehabilitation of persons with Parkinson disease and other neurological conditions and to disseminate this information on a global level. Lead by Director and assistant professor Dr. Terry Ellis, PhD, PT, NCS, the center is part of the College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Sargent College, Boston University.

About Wellpepper

Wellpepper is a healthcare technology company with an award-winning and clinically-validated patient engagement platform used by major health systems to improve outcomes and lower costs of care. Wellpepper treatment plans can be customized for each health system’s own protocols and best practices and personalized for each patient. Wellpepper’s patented adaptive notification system helps drive over 70 percent patient engagement with treatment plans. Wellpepper was founded in 2012 to help healthcare organizations lower costs, improve outcomes and improve patient satisfaction. The company is headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Visit for more information.

Media Contact:

Jennifer Allen Newton
Bluehouse Consulting Group, Inc. for Wellpepper


Posted in: Press Release, Uncategorized

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As usual HIMSS was an overwhelming whirlwind of meetings, opportunities, and information. We had a great show at Wellpepper, and were impressed by a few things. First we heard a lot less about wanting the EMR to do everything. People have realized that especially for all of the patient-facing digital experience, that there need to be interoperable solutions, that are designed with the needs of the end-user in mind. Another thing we noticed was less hype that any one technology (AI, blockchain) was going to be the savior of healthcare. It seems like the market is maturing and there’s an understanding that technology is a key underpinning but only when it’s solving real problems for patients and clinicians. John Moore from Chilmark, who was attending his 11th HIMSS has a great take on this.

Each year, we come away from HIMSS with something we didn’t expect. While it’s usually new leads, partnerships, or competitive intelligence, this year for me, it was the HIMSS flu. Being in a conference center full of technology to diagnose, manage, connect with, and treat sick people, made it seem like a solution should be close by. Ironically, I had meetings with a number of physicians who said that it looked like I had the flu, but couldn’t treat me because they weren’t licensed in Florida. Also, my primary care physician couldn’t help me for this reason as well.

After seeing CirrusMD tweet at my friend and fellow patient-centered care advocate Jan Oldenburg with an offer of a consult, I thought that telemedicine might be the answer.

MDLive came through with a visit code, and I signed up. The sign-up process was pretty painless although an option to clarify where I was physically versus where I lived might have been helpful.

Once I signed up, the app told me it would notify me when it found a physician. This was the slightly confusing part, as when I exited the app and opened it again there was no record that I was in a queue for an appointment, so I started trying to sign up again. Eventually, a video visit came through while I was trying to re-register.

My doctor looked like she was taking calls from home, from the video. Unfortunately, video didn’t work very well from the HIMSS floor—not surprising given the status of the network, so we switched to phone. After a 10 minute conversation, she concluded I had the flu (she was right), and prescribed Tamiflu.

As Jan also found out when she had her asthma attack, the pharmacies near the convention center weren’t actually pharmacies, that is they didn’t offer prescription medication. For Jan it was an expensive Uber to pick up her prescription. For me it was finding a pharmacy that would be open between Orlando and Tampa where were were headed for customer meetings on Friday. By the time I got the prescription, it was 7 hours later, and with Tamiflu the timing matters.

While I was thankful to get care, here are a number of points of friction that made it more difficult than it needed to be, and also show how healthcare really hasn’t adapted to the needs of people:

  • State-based licensure makes telemedicine prohibitive. It also means that you can’t get care from your primary care or other specialists if you’re traveling. Kind of ridiculous that because the patient is physically in Florida suddenly the physician is not licensed to practice.
  • Pharmacies need more delivery options. Even locally, I’ve ended up at pharmacies that don’t take my insurance. Driving around when you’re sick is annoying, and showing up in person when you’ve got the flu is unhelpful for everyone else there.

On the licensure, it’s slow going, but states are starting to have agreements to solve this. On the delivery options, Amazon-drone delivery can’t come fast enough. Overall, the experience wasn’t terrible, and the technology worked but it certainly wasn’t seamless or convenient, and I probably infected a bunch of people while trying to get care. I’d like to apologize to anyone I may have passed the flu along to. I’m not the type to work when sick, but when you’re on the road it’s hard not to.

Also, we’d like HIMSS and all conferences to consider pop-up urgent care. The bandaids in the first-aid room weren’t enough.

Posted in: Healthcare costs, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, HIMSS, M-health, patient engagement, Telemedicine

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