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Using Your Smartphone for Symptom Tracking

Posted Thursday, November 7, 2019 by Carl-Erich Kruse

You may have already read some of our previous posts regarding the use of smartphones and wearable devices in monitoring patient health. The technology remains rather new, so continues to evolve and improve. One overall goal is trying to fit the technology into a person’s overall healthcare. A recent paper out of the UK demonstrates the utility of our phones tracking symptoms for specific conditions: specifically those of rheumatoid arthritis. And it provides a positive outlook for long-term symptom tracking for chronic conditions.

One hurdle providers frequently contend with is being forced to rely exclusively on a patient’s self reporting of symptoms between visits. Sometimes these visits come over several months. And it goes without saying that patients’ memories are imperfect. Contemporaneous reports are far more reliable and create a nearly objective set of data for providers to look back on.

Physicians at Manchester University in England worked with developers to create an app for patients to track their subjective arthritis symptoms. The app passively tracks weather data from the location of the smartphone, and the patients’ movement through an accelerometer that is already embedded in the phone. The data is then combined more or less contemporaneously, and automatically loaded into the patient’s chart. The patients providers, then, could take the data and correlate the patients symptoms with weather patterns over time. The app is called, appropriately, Cloudy with a Chance of Pain.

Outside of the world of arthritis, patients, providers, can use a model similar to this to track chronic patient conditions that should lead to less misdiagnoses, or delays in diagnosis. We can imagine a world where, for example, heart disease patients can report symptoms that are then matched with activity monitors in wearables or smartphones. The patients’ cardiologist or primary care provider can then review those notes in the chart at the patient’s next visit. Ideally, this will help catch pathology before it gets any more serious.

Read the study here: Cloudy with a Chance of Pain: Engagement and Subsequent Attrition of Daily Data Entry in a Smartphone Pilot Study Tracking Weather, Disease Severity, and Physical Activity in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Read our previous coverage of wearable technology here and here

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