Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by recurrent fluctuations in symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Remote measurement technologies (RMTs) offer the opportunity to track symptoms continuously and in real time; therefore, they may provide a more accurate picture of RA disease activity as a complement to prescheduled general practitioner appointments. Previous research has shown patient interest in remote symptom tracking in RA and has provided evidence for its clinical validity. However, there is a lack of co-design in the current development of systems, and the features of RMTs that best promote optimal engagement remain unclear.
This study represents the first in a series of work that aims to develop a multiparametric RMT system for symptom tracking in RA. The objective of this study is to determine the important outcomes for disease management in patients with RA and how these can be best captured via remote measurement.
A total of 9 patients (aged 23-77 years; mean 55.78, SD 17.54) with RA were recruited from King’s College Hospital to participate in two semistructured focus groups. Both focus group discussions were conducted by a facilitator and a lived-experience researcher. The sessions were recorded, transcribed, independently coded, and analyzed for themes.
Thematic analysis identified a total of four overarching themes: important symptoms and outcomes in RA, management of RA symptoms, views on the current health care system, and views on the use of RMTs in RA. Mobility and pain were key symptoms to consider for symptom tracking as well as symptom triggers. There is a general consensus that the ability to track fluctuations and transmit such data to clinicians would aid in individual symptom management and the effectiveness of clinical care. Suggestions for visually capturing symptom fluctuations in an app were proposed.
The findings support previous work on the acceptability of RMT with RA disease management and address key outcomes for integration into a remote monitoring system for RA self-management and clinical care. Clear recommendations for RMT design are proposed. Future work will aim to take these recommendations into a user testing phase.

©Katie M White, Alina Ivan, Ruth Williams, James B Galloway, Sam Norton, Faith Matcham. Originally published in JMIR Formative Research (http://formative.jmir.org), 09.03.2021.
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