App development: Arthritis Society in Canada
Bridging the gap between patient groups and developers
In brief, feedback from the Arthritis Society in Canada helped a developer to expand the scope of their arthritis app.
The app, myHand, originally focused on helping patients to:
- measure physical changes in their hands
- identify how the pain in their hands is connected to factors like weather, activity and treatment.
Patient input has been there from the start:
- One of the development team developed the app based on his own challenges with hand arthritis.
- The developers approached The Arthritis Society to recruit up to 200 patients to trial the app before release.
- Patients feedback gave scope to expanded from the hand to address other joints affected by arthritis.
Recognising the unmet need
The challenge of bringing together patients and developers to create meaningful, useful and usable apps so often proves insurmountable. In the case of app developers eTreatMD, one member of the team lived with hand arthritis, and so knew a critical unmet patient need an app could address:
“With so many health and wellness apps on the market, I was surprised by how few actually offer measurement and diagnostic capabilities to manage arthritis. To fill this significant gap, we’ve developed myHand to empower people with a more proactive approach to understanding and managing their arthritis.”
– Nick MacKinnon, eTreatMD’s co-founder
Trialling the app with patients
Following on, to test the concept, eTreatMD worked with The Arthritis Society to give free access to myHand to up to 200 arthritis patients in a pilot trial. As the Society provides education and support to more than 4.6 million Canadians with arthritis, it wanted to be involved in the app trial:
“The Arthritis Society is embracing digital health strategies as a way to help Canadians living with arthritis in the modern world”
– Joanne Simons, chief mission officer, The Arthritis Society
Moreover, early into the trial, The Arthritis Society could already see the potential of the new app. It was nominated for the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance Telus Health Outstanding Product Achievement Award. The Society explained why they had nominated the app, myHand, which went on to win the 2016 award:
“By leveraging the technology that already exists in mobile devices, eTreatMD is helping people with arthritis take charge of their disease and live more fully. We need more of this kind of innovative thinking applied to addressing the needs of people living with chronic disease.”
– Janet Yale, president and CEO of The Arthritis Society.
Acting on the patients’ feedback
The real test of developers seeking patient feedback, of course, is how they act on it. The key change resulting from the patients recruited from The Arthritis Society was fundamental – changing the app’s scale and scope.
Whereas the myHand pilot app focused on hand arthritis. The patients and developers recognised that it should be expanded to other common joints affected by arthritis. The development team hope to launch the new app, LiveWithTM ArthritisPlus and its supporting web portal soon.
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