Rheumatoid Arthritis Focus Group

29 June 2019

Volunteer patient participants and researchers took part in a research Focus Group hosted by BIRD to discuss plans for a new smartphone app to monitor rheumatoid arthritis disease activity between appointments.

Leading the group discussion was Dr Bashaar Boyce, Rheumatology Consultant RNHRD and Dr Phil Hamann, Clinical Lecturer, University of Bristol who explained why it would be so useful for both clinicians and patients.

There was plenty of discussion throughout the session and, after the demonstration and testing, the focus group participants were asked for their opinions on the pros & cons of using the app to help monitor their flare ups between appointments and how often they felt they might use it – some thought it would be useful every day.

The focus group participants were shown some test screen examples and the researchers described the type of information the app, called ’Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis’, would collect, such as a body map of the main RA pain point locations.  The map was an easy way for patients to score their pain levels and allowed for a text entry that could be used as a virtual diary to record anything that they thought might have affected them (stress, activity, food etc).   Patients said this would be a useful way of recording flare ups which can vary from person to person and sometimes be forgotten by the patient by the time of their next appointment.  

An exciting feature of this app is that it would include use of data gathered from specialist equipment that link to a smartphone, such as a camera, that captures a thermographic (heat sensitive) picture of hands and a gauge called a ‘Dynomonitor’ that is used to measure and record hand grip strength. Everyone had the opportunity to try using the equipment.

BIRD were happy to help set up and host the focus group as part of their Patient & Public Engagement programme. The session lasted approx. 2hrs and was fuelled by a selection of hot drinks, cakes and savoury snacks.  Afterwards everyone agreed they are looking forward to the next review session

*Living With is a health technology company with 5+yrs experience of creating and developing health apps. For more info visit www.livingwith.health/