Background: Patient outcomes are improved and the burden to the health care system is reduced when individuals are active self-managers of their own health. There is a need for technology that facilitates self-management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and can reduce the number of patient visits, promptly identify treatment needs, and reduce the costs associated with poor RA management. A mobile app named LiveWith Arthritis (eTreatMD, Vancouver, BC) has been developed that allows patients with RA to use their mobile device to regularly collect self-management data and to take objective measurements of the impact of RA on their finger joints using optical imaging technology.
Objective: The objectives of this pilot study were to (1) gather preliminary data as to whether a mobile app with hand optical imaging capabilities improves self-management behaviors (self-efficacy in managing symptoms and patient activation), (2) determine if app use shows promise in improving health outcomes (Pain, Health Assessment Questionnaire-II [HAQ-II]), and (3) determine barriers to using the mobile app in adults with RA.
Methods: This pilot study used a mixed-methods design. The quantitative portion was a traditional 2-group experimental design, and the qualitative portion was a follow-up telephone interview for intervention participants who did not complete the study. Measures of self-management included the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) self-efficacy in managing symptoms (P-SEMS) and Patient Activation Measure (PAM). Health outcomes included pain by Visual Analog Scale and disability by HAQ-II.
Results: The final sample consisted of 21 intervention participants and 15 controls. There was a statistically significant improvement in P-SEMS and promising trends for improvement in PAM, HAQ-II, and pain scores for participants who used the app. Of the intervention participants who did not complete the study, 12 completed the qualitative interview on barriers to use. Qualitative content analysis revealed 3 themes for barriers to using the app, including (1) frustration with technology, (2) RA made the app difficult to use, and (3) satisfaction with current self-management system.
Conclusions: The LiveWith Arthritis app shows promise for improving self-management behaviors and health outcomes in adults with RA. Future study with a larger sample size is required to confirm findings. Initial app experience is important for adoption and continual use of the app. Individuals with significant disability to the hand would benefit from voice-activated app features. Participants who already have a system of managing their RA may not feel compelled to switch methods, even when a novel optical imaging feature is available.
Keywords: mobile applications; optical imaging; patient activation; pilot study; rheumatoid arthritis; self efficacy; self-management.
©Elizabeth Mollard, Kaleb Michaud. Originally published in JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth (http://mhealth.jmir.org), 29.10.2018.