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Parkython & Rune Labs Ideathon: Creative Technical Solutions for People Living with Parkinson’s Disease

The emergence of new technologies is changing our health care delivery system and contributing positively by helping to improve people’s well-being and quality of life. With a multitude of  communities and healthcare companies wanting to make a difference, Parkython and Rune Labs partnered together to host their very first in-person and virtual ideathon workshop, to brainstorm solutions for people living with Parkinson’s Disease (PwPDs). 

Similar to a hackathon, this workshop was compressed into one day of rapid brainstorming and idea generation, focused on the first steps of design thinking: empathize, define, and ideate. 


This ideathon brought together a diverse group of individuals coming from all over the world, including California, New York, Cincinnati, Portugal, London, India, Australia and more. The team hosted individuals in-person at the Rune Labs office in San Francisco, CA, and had a satellite location provided by the University of Cincinnati, Gardner Neuroscience Institute. People with Parkinson’s Disease, caregivers, engineers, med tech & pharma, and researchers with different technical backgrounds participated during the hybrid event. With over 40 participants, the Parkython and Rune Labs team split up the participants into six teams with at least one Parkython representative and two Rune Labs engineers.  

“As a patient advocate and person with Parkinson’s who happens to work in the information technology industry, this was a great opportunity to merge my two areas of expertise and encourage collaboration between the technologists at Rune Labs and fellow PwPDs,” said Kevin Krejci, Co-Founder of Parkython. “I’ve organized events like this in my role at Fujitsu Research, and always find it amazing how many great ideas can emerge when you throw a group of diverse people together to solve a problem in a very short time.”  

Exercise 1: Understanding the challenges PwPDs face

Understanding that Parkinson’s Disease is a heterogeneous disease and very specific to an individual, the group shared their experiences living with Parkinson’s Disease. Three questions were proposed to the group:

  1. What has made your life better since your diagnosis? 
  2. What do you think could make your life better going forward? 
  3. What is your biggest frustration with Parkinson’s Disease?

This first step to the “design thinking” methodology encourages designers and developers of solutions to empathize with their customers. Though the disease experience is different for everyone, the participants with Parkinson’s Disease shared tips and anecdotes that helped them make their quality of life better. Individuals discussed the importance of finding a good healthcare provider, how to control their diet, maintain a healthy exercise routine, and treatments that worked for them such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). 

Exercise 2: Turning challenges into proof of concepts 

After reflecting on the first exercise of the workshop, the six teams broke out individually to come up with a proof of concept for a challenge PwPDs face. By the end of the exercise, each team had five minutes to run through their presentation. 

A few common themes surfaced, including: 

  • Tracking and managing stress better
  • Simplifying timely self-reported symptoms and therapies through better interfaces and passive data collection
  • Improving dialog and data sharing with care teams
  • Focusing on solving the issues that are unique to each PwPDs
  • Collecting relevant data 24/7 automatically, with insights and recommendations (turning the data into actionable insights)

Exercise 3: Turning proof of concepts into tangible solutions 

The teams had the first half of the day to discuss challenges PwPDs face. The last half of the day was dedicated to creating an in-depth version of the proof of concept and solution. Several of the teams presented demos, prototypes and mockups (wireframes), while others walked through the experience using their novel creation of unique features. 

Project Proposals

  • Dick Tracy Watch”:  A Speech Recognition Tool for Capturing Med Timings, Symptoms and Side Effects. Solution: An on-demand, voice responsive wearable that allows PwPDs to easily capture your medication timings, the symptoms you are experiencing and any side effects. A self-reporting tool available on demand via a wearable using a simple voice interface.
  • Stress Monitoring and Reduction. Solution:  Moving beyond “judgmental wearables,” a source of stress on their own.  This solution is to detect indications of stress with wearable technology, such as the Apple Watch, but have it respond with interventions that motivate and change the mindset of individuals’ thinking. This includes favorite images, music, and/or affirmations.
  • Optimizing Clinical Visits “Automagically.” Solution: Improve the communication with clinicians by focusing the discussion and visit on issues that matter most to PwPDs, while leveraging data that is collected “automagically” throughout the year. This includes minimal interruptions and input required. Data could be collected from wearables, smart phones, deep brain stimulation (DBS) sensors, apps, and other data sources. 
  • The Experience. Solution: PwPDs on average have only 2 visits with their neurologist per year and they are limited to 30 minutes per visit.  Much of these precious minutes are spent doing the standard UPDRS tests, which are similar to a “glamorized drunk drivers test” to subjectively rate movement on a scale of 1 to 5.  This is done in a slice of time, without context of the other 8,765 hours in the year, when individuals are on their own outside a clinic.  This solution is to gather data throughout the year and present it in a digestible format for the neurologists and care team to make better decisions about prescribed therapies, enabling more time for a deeper dialog with patients during their visits.
  • FREDMED: A Friendly Reminder for Meds. Solution: An unobtrusive medication reminder that dynamically adjusts to your daily schedule, starting with when you wake up. It also takes into account food and water intake, including any adjustments in day-to-day meal schedule, providing more accurate reminders. 
  • ParkiCompanion. Solution: Building a better way to track the day to day ups and downs of living with Parkinson’ s using “ecological momentary assessment” with non intrusive prompts at a regular cadence in order to better understand the disease.  All information can be shared in real time with care partners as well as health providers and others on your team. 

People’s Choice Awards: Stress Detector - A Stress Monitoring and Management Tool

After the workshop came to an end, participants voted on their favorite solutions. The winner was "Stress Detector," with "Optimizing Clinical Visits Automagically” as runner-up.

Stress Detector

Optimizing Clinical Visits Automagically

The future of technology has endless possibilities  

“It was empowering to see how every individual's voice was portrayed in the solution in one way or the other.  Whether it was through a feature, the presentation, or technical skills, the groups came together to present a tool that could benefit them or someone else with Parkinson’s Disease” said Priya Kumar, Head of Communications at Rune Labs. Together, Rune Labs and Parkython brought individuals from different backgrounds to learn and share their experiences. To improve any individual’s quality of life, especially with diseases that are so personalized, it is critical to start with understanding the unique needs and challenges people face. 

For some of the individuals participating, the ideathon was their first experience interacting with a large group of people with Parkinson’s, enabling them to recognize what an individual’s day-to-day looks like and how a one-size-fits-all approach to treatments and quality of life does not apply. For PwPDs, some of which also have strong technical backgrounds, it was their chance to brainstorm ideas with new individuals to build the next generation of technologies for Parkinson’s Disease. 

“It was a nice moment for PwPDs to interact with people who have the technical skills to ideate and execute on some of their ideas, in addition to learning more about how startups and others with technical backgrounds think when going about building these kinds of technological tools,” said John Dean, Co-Founder of Parkython. 

Overall, the ideathon workshop sparked new ideas and knowledge of what technology can do for individuals in respect to their healthcare. With the help of Rune Labs’ precision neurology software and data platform, and Parkython’s expertise and deep connection to the Parkinson’s community, the two organizations invested in educating and empowering the community to think outside the box as the industry sees this new paradigm shift in the adoption of technology and real world data. 

“Parkython’s primary vision of empowering the Parkinson’s community by bringing people from around the world together to brainstorm solutions for Parkinson’s could not have been better served by the amazing team at Rune labs”, noted Parkython Co-Founder Rui Couto. “On behalf of Parkython, we want to thank Ben, Priya, Brian and the rest of the Rune Labs team, not to mention all of the volunteers for bringing the resources to make this inaugural Ideathon a roaring success.”

Special thanks to the University of Cincinnati, Gardner Neuroscience Institute (UCGNI)

We want to give a special thank you to the University of Cincinnati, Gardner Neuroscience Institute, and its director, Alberto Espay and his team (and especially, Becca Jacobs) for graciously hosting our satellite team at their amazing facility.

For more information about the Ideathon, watch the full recorded sessions here: 

About Rune Labs: Rune Labs is a software and data analytics company for precision neurology, supporting care delivery and therapy development. StrivePD is the company’s care delivery ecosystem for Parkinson’s disease, enabling patients and clinicians to better manage Parkinson’s by providing access to curated dashboards summarizing a range of patient data sources, and by connecting patients to clinical trials. For therapeutics development, biopharma and medical device companies leverage Rune’s technology, network of engaged clinicians and patients, and large longitudinal real-world datasets to expedite development programs. The company has received financial backing from leading investors such as Eclipse Ventures, DigiTx, TruVenturo and Moment Ventures. 

About Parkython: Parkython [Par-key-thon] is a virtual global hackathon for Parkinson's. It is an initiative to catalyze the development of better technology solutions FOR People with Parkinson’s, WITH People with Parkinson’s. Parkython aims to do this by bringing together diverse members of the global Parkinson’s community with developers, designers, clinicians, therapists, doctors, neuroscientists, and others to develop better technology solutions for PwPs, WITH PwPs actively involved in the innovation process.  We are doing this through a series of webinars, virtual meetups, salons, “ideathons” and hackathons, leading up to the World Parkinson Congress 2023 (WPC) in Barcelona, Spain.


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