Scent-delivery devices as a digital healthcare tool for olfactory training: A pilot focus group study in Parkinson's disease patients

in Digital Health, Journal article


Parkinson's disease (PD) patients display a combination of motor and non-motor symptoms. The most common non-motor symptom is scent (olfactory) impairment, occurring at least four years prior to motor symptom onset. Recent and growing interest in digital healthcare technology used in PD has resulted in more technologies developed for motor rather than non-motor symptoms. Human-computer interaction (HCI), which uses computer technology to explore human activity and work, could be combined with digital healthcare technologies to better understand and support olfaction via scent training - leading to the development of a scent-delivery device (SDD). In this pilot study, three PD patients were invited to an online focus group to explore the association between PD and olfaction, understand HCI and sensory technologies and were demonstrated a new multichannel SDD with an associated mobile app. Participants had a preconceived link, a result of personal experience, between olfactory impairment and PD. Participants felt that healthcare professionals did not take olfactory dysfunction concerns seriously prior to PD diagnosis. Two were not comfortable with sharing scent loss experiences with others. Participants expected the multichannel SDD to be small, portable and easy-to-use, with customisable cartridges to deliver chosen scents and the mobile app to create a sense of community. None of the participants regularly performed scent training but would consider doing so if some scent function could be regained. Standardised digital SDDs for regular healthcare check-ups may facilitate improvement in olfactory senses in PD patients and potential earlier PD diagnosis, allowing earlier therapeutic and symptomatic PD management.