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The Pros and Cons of Smartphone Self-Evaluation for MS Patients

November 10, 2015

A smartphone platform may eventually enable large-scale studies of patients with multiple sclerosis or other neurologic diseases, according to the findings of a recent study published in the journal Neurology, Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.

Philip L. De Jager, MD, PhD, from Harvard Medical School, and his team investigated the possibility of performing smartphone-based assessments of patients with MS and their cohabitants. Specifically, the team aimed to identify operational challenges to deploying a smartphone platform for passive and active data collection in human observational studies, as well as to identify themes that could improve study design for next-generation smartphone applications.

A total of 38 pairs (MS and cohabitant), ages 18–55, were able to take part in the research. Each study participant was given a smartphone with a custom application that included 19 tests to capture participants’ performance (vision, cognition, color vision, and dexterity), as well as patient-reported outcomes (quality of life, fatigue, and mood). Study participants were asked to complete one assignment test per day for one year.

The final amount of participants was of 22 MS patients and 17 cohabitants, with the results revealing that in MS patients there was an association between study dropout and low scores on patient-reported outcomes related to mental and visual function.

“Much remains to be done in understanding whether and how smartphone-based data can contribute clinically meaningful information…Yet harnessing the potential and overcoming the challenges of naturalistically collected data will be an important part of deep patient phenotyping as studies are scaled to the very large sample sizes (n > 5,000) that are necessary for large endeavors such as gene discovery,” the team said.