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There is strong evidence that increased exercise is associated with slower declines in mobility and quality of life among people with Parkinson’s. However, there are also several barriers to exercise, including motor symptoms, fear of falling, lack of information, and nonmotor symptoms like anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Recent studies have shown that clinicians can use digital health technology and behavior change interventions to help people with Parkinson’s to increase their exercise. This project aims to facilitate digital health technology use into physical therapy (PT) practice for people with early Parkinson’s disease.

Specifically, as part of the study we will develop, disseminate, and test strategies that can improve the use of digital health technology and behavior change interventions in PT and real-world practice



Aim 1: To compare perceived barriers and facilitators to using digital health technology, from the perspectives of PwP and clinicians, before and after they use commercially-available sensors.

Aim 2: To assess fidelity of digital health technology adoption (via activity sensors and exercise tracking) by PwP and their clinicians.

Aim 3: To determine whether greater use of digital health technology and behavior change intervention strategies are associated with changes in fitness and function 6 months after evaluation.

We are recruiting people with Parkinson's who:


  • Are referred to the Proactive PT Program at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.
  • Self-identify as a person with early Parkinson's, or with mild to moderate Parkinson's symptoms
  • Are on a stable Parkinson's medication dose for at least 3 months, or on no medication for Parkinson's
  • Have access to a smart phone, computer, or activity tracker
  • Have no diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or dementia

Participation in this study will involve a physical function assessment and online survey at two different time points. Compensation will be provided for research assessments. Physical function assessments may take place at these Shirley Ryan AbilityLab locations:

  • Flagship location: 355 E. Erie St. Chicago, IL
  • Burr Ridge Outpatient & Day Rehab: 7600 County Line Rd. Burr Ridge, IL
  • Northbrook Outpatient Center: 900 Skokie Blvd. Northbrook, IL.

If you are interested in participating in this study click here to sign up or contact Sydney Achler at (312) 238-7275 or email to

Preliminary Results


In Aim 1 of the study, we conducted interviews with people with Parkinson’s disease, physical therapists, and technology stakeholders. The purpose of Aim 1 was to describe barriers and facilitators to using digital health technology in physical therapy (PT).

Results of the interviews suggest that clinicians should simplify digital health technology in PT to increase use by people with PD. Recommendations for PT include (1) identifying user-friendly features in apps, (2) gathering resources for both clinicians and patients, (3) using individualized approaches, and (4) engaging family, social, and clinical support.

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