New smartphone app for arthritis patients

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We are testing a prototype app that uses mobile phones’ movement detectors to track the daily activity and joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Fitting in with patients’ lives

Have you ever wondered how your smartphone knows which way up you are holding your phone, and twists the screen around to fit? Most now have built-in devices that can sense movement. It’s these sensors that allow a new rheumatoid arthritis (RA) app, known as RApp, to track activity.

The idea behind the study, led by Jimmy Caroupapoullé, is to test if the app can track how much the participants move each day in the least intrusive way possible. Since most people with a smartphone already keep it on them everywhere they go, an extra app working away in the background should be barely noticeable.

Using the app

The study will start off small, with just a handful of participants, both with and without RA. They’ll also wear a Fitbit, so that any teething problems can be spotted and the app refined. Then the study will be scaled up to include a larger number of patients visiting the facility.

The RA patients complete daily and weekly questionnaires on the app that ask the types of questions their doctor would. They can also mark where they feel joint pain and swelling on an image of a skeleton, scoring this from 0 (none) to 4 (severe), whenever they experience it.

Better symptom reporting 

When a patient visits their doctor, they are usually asked to recall how their condition has been over the past few weeks or even months. In future, if an app like this could be seen by their doctor, the patient would no longer need to do this – all of the information the doctor required would be there on a screen in front of them, recorded at the time rather than retrospectively. 

In the long-term, RA patients may be able to download the app just like any other, and use it to record their symptoms so that their doctor can give them advice based on their activity levels since their last appointment. In this way, it could give patients more control over their condition.

Taking part

If you would like take part in this study, please email Jimmy Caroupapoullé at jkc1g14@soton.ac.uk or call 023 8120 5279.

Alternatively, you can write to Rheumatology Research Unit, Mailpoint 63, Level G, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, SO16 6YD.

Posted on Monday 25 July 2016