New App driven by artificial intelligence set to help people living with inflammatory arthritis

Wednesday, 09 December 2020

Arthritis App

Tens of thousands of people living with painful inflammatory arthritis - axial SpA (AS) - could benefit from the development of a new artificial intelligence driven App that will help people take control of their condition and support rheumatologists to diagnose their condition faster.

To develop the app, Oxford Brookes University academics are working with Good Boost Wellbeing Limited, a social enterprise who have received funding from Innovate UK to support the project, and the National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society (NASS).

1 in 200 live with axial SpA

Currently 1 in 200 people in the UK live with axial SpA (AS), a painful and progressive form of inflammatory arthritis. People who live with the condition often experience chronic pain and fatigue and, without the right treatment, the condition can lead to irreversible spinal fusion and joint damage. Axial SpA (AS) affects young people, with symptoms typically starting in late teens to mid-twenties. Diagnosis takes an average 8.5 years, but a faster diagnosis can help people avoid some of the condition’s worst outcomes and live well.

Smartphones will help track condition

Once developed, the App will enable people with the condition to use their smartphone to monitor their posture and range of movement for signs of change. It will help people spot signs that their condition is deteriorating and help them know when they need to contact their healthcare team to get advice, discuss their treatment or ask for physiotherapy.

It will also speed up the process for diagnosis by enabling people with suspected axial SpA (AS) to provide the rheumatologist with essential information about their posture and range of movement. Once diagnosed, it will also enable rheumatologists to monitor people remotely.

As a first step, Good Boost is working with NASS to find people living with axial SpA (AS) to help train the App to recognise a wide range of variations of the condition. People who take part will be asked to complete a series of different movements via a video captured on their phone.

Oxford Brookes to research accuracy and usability 

The Centre for Movement, Occupational and Rehabilitation Sciences (MOReS) at Oxford Brookes University is responsible for the research component of the project to evaluate the App. This will show how accurate the App is at measuring movement and posture and provide insight on the experiences of those using the App.

Professor Helen Dawes, Director MOReS, said: “It is really important that digital healthcare tools are carefully evaluated for their accuracy and usability involving patients who are affected by these conditions and clinicians, to ensure these systems can be trusted and meet the needs of the people using them. I am absolutely delighted that we’re working on this important project with Good Boost and NASS.”

Lifechanging potential of new App

Ben Wilkins, CEO, Good Boost said: “We are delighted to receive Innovate UK funding for this pioneering project. Once developed, the App will be as easy to use as the finger prick blood test for diabetes, transforming the lives of tens of thousands of people with axial SpA (AS). Ultimately, we hope it will lead to faster diagnosis times and empower people to manage their condition, enabling more people to avoid developing spinal fusion or suffering severe joint damage.”

Dr Dale Webb, CEO NASS, said: “This is an incredibly innovative project and will be lifechanging for many people living with axial SpA (AS). I encourage anyone who is living with axial SpA (AS) to step forward and volunteer to take part. Your support will be invaluable to help other people with the condition in the future.”

People who are interested in taking part should email events@nass.co.uk