Feasibility of Self-Monitoring Rheumatoid Arthritis With a Smartphone App: Results of Two Mixed-Methods Pilot Studies

Bart F. Seppen*, Jimmy Wiegel, Merel J. l'ami, Sharon Duarte dos Santos Rico, Fabio S. Catarinella, Franktien Turkstra, Maarten Boers, Wouter H. Bos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Several mobile apps that monitor symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) exist, but a recent systematic review indicated that high-quality apps are lacking. When patients self-monitor their own disease with patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and self-initiate care at the right moment, it may be possible to reduce the frequency of their clinic visits, which would reduce health care burden and costs. We developed an app, that is, the MijnReuma Reade app, for this purpose and performed 2 pilot tests with weekly self-monitoring. Objective: The primary objective of this study was to design, develop, and evaluate the usability, satisfaction, and usage of the MijnReuma Reade app-an app that allows patients with RA to monitor their own disease. The secondary objective was to review the patients' perspectives on app usage and its intended purpose. Methods: This app was designed in collaboration with patients with RA, rheumatologists, and information technology experts. Two 1-month pilot studies were performed, after which satisfaction (0-10 scale), usability (system usability scale, 0-100), and usage (proportion of completed questionnaires) of this app were assessed. After the second pilot study, semistructured interviews were performed to determine patients' perspectives and the promoters and barriers of app usage. Results: In the first and second pilot study, 42 and 27 patients were included, respectively. Overall, the patients were satisfied (medians, 8 and 7) and found the app usable (mean system usability scores, 76 and 71) in pilot studies 1 and 2, respectively. App usage declined over time in both the pilot studies; 61% (17/28) and 37% (10/27) of the patients who disclosed their usage statistics completed the final weekly questionnaire in pilot study 1 and pilot study 2, respectively. Approximately 81% (25/31) of the patients indicated they would like to skip hospital visits if the self-monitored disease activity is low. In the semistructured interviews, technical problems, internal resistance (respondent fatigue, the app reminded them of their disease), and a lack of symptoms were identified as barriers for usage. Patients reported that "experiencing more grip on their disease" and "improved communication with their physician" were promoters for usage. Patients reported that pain positively mediated usage, that is, more pain promoted and less pain discouraged app usage. Conclusions: This study illustrates the feasibility of the MijnReuma Reade app that enables self-monitoring of the disease activity in patients with RA with the overarching aim to allocate clinical consultations according to need. Satisfaction with the app and usability of the app were found to be high; however, app usage declined over time. Patients acknowledged the potential of the app to self-monitor their own disease and would like to be able to skip clinic visits if the monitored disease activity is low. To evaluate this strategy, a randomized controlled trial is underway.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20165
Pages (from-to)e20165
JournalJMIR formative research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2020

Cite this