Scientists at the University of Manchester have expressed support for the use of smartphone apps in monitoring long term medical conditions.
They have come out in favour following a study, funded by the charity Versus Arthritis and its results published in the journal Rheumatology, on the use of an app developed by the university’s Centre for Health Informatics for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis.
It was used by 20 patients to record any symptoms and the impact on their lives, and integrated with their hospital electronic health records, with the data summarised on a graph they were shown during outpatient consultations.
The study found that the system provided a bigger picture than usual for doctors, capturing symptoms that could otherwise have been missed. The consulting physician said the electronic patient reported outcomes made it possible to quantify responses to treatment across physical and mental health.
The graphs made it easier for patients to discuss their conditions with doctors and highlighted flares in the condition they had not mentioned, and demonstrated gradual improvements in symptoms in response to treatment that may otherwise have been missed.
Patients provided positive feedback, saying it was not difficult to provide the routine data.
Lead author Professor Will Dixon from the University of Manchester said: “This feasibility study was conducted by a small group of enthusiastic self-selected patients and clinicians. But the positive experience of the consultations surpassed all our expectations.”
He added: “Patients find it difficult to recall their symptoms and short consultation times may limit how thoroughly a history is explored. Patients also reported that doctors could direct consultations in a way that did not always explore issues that the patients felt to be important.
“But by using their smartphone data, patients benefited from consultations being focussed around their own data, making discussions more personal.
“Disease patterns were revealed that would have been missed, including flares and long term trends that would otherwise be hidden within the day-to-day fluctuation of symptoms.”
Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research at Versus Arthritis, said: “This study is an innovative and exciting example of how smartphones, an integral part of many people’s lives, could help people with arthritis manage their condition through more productive discussions with their doctor.”
Image from University of Manchester