Yvonne C. Lee
Most mobile apps currently available on iTunes and the Google Play store that are aimed at patients with rheumatoid arthritis fail to provide users with a comprehensive experience, with few providing both educational information and the ability to track symptoms, according to findings published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.
“This study was important because it provides a systematic review of publicly available apps targeted towards people with rheumatoid arthritis,” Yvonne C. Lee, MD, MMSc, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told Healio Rheumatology. “It provides clinicians with information on what their patients may be using. It also provides researchers with background information on existing apps and gaps in knowledge in this evolving field.”
To determine the current features, and the areas of unmet need, among mobile apps directed toward patients with RA, the researchers conducted a systematic review of 20 such apps available on iTunes and Google Play. After searching the two platforms for the term “arthritis,” they reviewed the resulting apps for descriptions that mentioned RA. Apps that met the inclusion criteria were downloaded and reviewed.
Most mobile apps currently available on iTunes and the Google Play store that are aimed at patients with RA fail to provide users with a comprehensive experience, according to findings.
The researchers assessed each app based on four features — basic characteristics, content source, functionality and security. They then recorded frequencies for each feature.
According to the researchers, 50% of the apps offered users symptom tracking as its sole feature. Further, 20% provided only educational information. A separate 20% included both educational information and symptom tracking. Less than 50% of the mobile apps allowed users to contact health care providers or connect to an online RA community. Just 30% offered security protections.
“Although multiple apps target people with RA, few provide a comprehensive experience including both educational information as well as the ability to track symptoms,” Lee said. “Guidelines for the evaluation of apps for people with chronic illnesses are lacking. Areas for growth may include the incorporation of features that enable data sharing and enhanced transparency and security. The clinical significance of our findings is that our patients have access to multiple apps that purport to help them to learn about and/or track their RA symptoms. However, little is known about the validity, usability, efficacy and security of these apps. Additional research is sorely needed in this area.” – by Jason Laday
Disclosure: Lee reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.