A Precision Medicine Tool for Patients With Multiple Sclerosis (the Open MS BioScreen): Human-Centered Design and Development

J Med Internet Res. 2020 Jul 6;22(7):e15605. doi: 10.2196/15605.


Background: Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) face several challenges in accessing clinical tools to help them monitor, understand, and make meaningful decisions about their disease course. The University of California San Francisco MS BioScreen is a web-based precision medicine tool initially designed to be clinician facing. We aimed to design a second, openly available tool, Open MS BioScreen, that would be accessible, understandable, and actionable by people with MS.

Objective: This study aimed to describe the human-centered design and development approach (inspiration, ideation, and implementation) for creating the Open MS BioScreen platform.

Methods: We planned an iterative and cyclical development process that included stakeholder engagement and iterative feedback from users. Stakeholders included patients with MS along with their caregivers and family members, MS experts, generalist clinicians, industry representatives, and advocacy experts. Users consisted of anyone who wants to track MS measurements over time and access openly available tools for people with MS. Phase I (inspiration) consisted of empathizing with users and defining the problem. We sought to understand the main challenges faced by patients and clinicians and what they would want to see in a web-based app. In phase II (ideation), our multidisciplinary team discussed approaches to capture, display, and make sense of user data. Then, we prototyped a series of mock-ups to solicit feedback from clinicians and people with MS. In phase III (implementation), we incorporated all concepts to test and iterate a minimally viable product. We then gathered feedback through an agile development process. The design and development were cyclical-many times throughout the process, we went back to the drawing board.

Results: This human-centered approach generated an openly available, web-based app through which patients with MS, their clinicians, and their caregivers can access the site and create an account. Users can enter information about their MS (basic level as well as more advanced concepts), visualize their data longitudinally, access a series of algorithms designed to empower them to make decisions about their treatments, and enter data from wearable devices to encourage realistic goal setting about their ambulatory activity. Agile development will allow us to continue to incorporate precision medicine tools, as these are validated in the clinical research arena.

Conclusions: After engaging intended users into the iterative human-centered design of the Open MS BioScreen, we will now monitor the adaptation and dissemination of the tool as we expand its functionality and reach. The insights generated from this approach can be applied to the development of a number of self-tracking, self-management, and user engagement tools for patients with chronic conditions.

Keywords: human factors; human-centered design; mobile phone; participatory medicine; personal health record; visualization in eHealth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Precision Medicine / methods*