Daily remote monitoring of rheumatoid arthritis patients can improve doctor consultations, study finds

Researchers at the University of Manchester found that integrating patient data recorded on smartphone apps with EHRs helped identify disease trends.
By Tammy Lovell
04:43 AM

A pilot study of 20 patients at Salford Royal Hospital examined how data captured on a smartphone app could improve doctors’ consultations when integrated into the electronic health record (EHR).

The app, which is not commercially available to the public, was developed at the University of Manchester’s Connected Health team at the Centre for Health Informatics.

Patients input their symptoms into the app each day for three months and recorded the impact they had on their lives.  This was then uniquely integrated into the hospital EHR and summarised as a graph, which was visible at outpatient visits.

Researchers found the app captured flares and long-term trends in symptoms that could otherwise have been missed and improved the experience of face-to-face consultations for patients and doctors.

The study published in the journal Rheumatology was jointly funded by Versus Arthritis and the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRC) Greater Manchester.

WHY IT MATTERS

Lead author Professor Will Dixon, from the University of Manchester, said: “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 focused around their own data, making discussions more personal.”

THE LARGER CONTEXT

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has teamed up with Finnish health tech startup Popit to provide support to people taking rheumatoid arthritis medication. Pfizer patients in Finland, Sweden and Norway will be offered Popit’s adherence solution, which monitors pill-taking with a smart device and alerts users via an app if they forget to take their medication.

Earlier this year, digital health company Living With announced a partnership with the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bath to develop a platform called the Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare Profiler. The project will allow patients capture disease activity data on their smartphones and use machine learning to create an effective treatment plan.

ON THE RECORD

Professor Dixon said: “We say consumer technology provides a huge opportunity to improve the management of long-term conditions. At present, however, the opportunities are not being fully harnessed, often because consumer apps are not integrated into the NHS”.

Rheumatoid arthritis patient Karen Staniland, who took part in the study, said: “Our study has delivered proof of value that daily remote monitoring via smartphones can work, offering powerful benefits to both patients and clinicians.”