Mobile health applications (apps) are increasing in interest for enhancing patient self-management in rheumatology. However, few have been developed with the involvement of patients and health professionals and actually used by patients.
To develop and implement a mobile app for safety, self-assessment and medication adherence for patients with inflammatory arthritis treated with disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and assess its real-life use.
A mixed qualitative-quantitative study including 42 and 344 patients, respectively, identified patients’ treatment practices and their use of health apps in general and their needs in terms of content and potential use. A multidisciplinary team including 7 rheumatologists, 3 patient association representatives and 4 members of a digital company developed the first version of the app with face-to-face meetings and patient feedback during the process. After the launch of the app, users’ feedback assessment included 7 patients and 3 rheumatologists. The number of app installations, current users, users’ requests and functionalities used were collected.
Preliminary studies indicated numerous safety issues and needs for counselling, leading to the 6 functionalities of the app HIBOOT (OWL in English): a safety checklist before treatment administration, aid in daily life situations related to self-management and safety, treatment reminders, global well-being self-assessment, periodic counselling messages, and a diary to note comments and appointments. The app is free, with no personal data collection. The presentation is a friendly companion that interacts with the user. The content was based on the French recommendations for DMARD management, drug leaflets and public national health websites. HIBOOT was installed 20,500 times from 2017 to 2020, with 4300 regular current users and still increasing usage curves. The checklist, diary and queries on daily life situations were the most used functionalities. Overall, 18,000 requests were identified for information on safety or other patient matters over a 8-month period in 2020. Scores were 4.4/5 stars at Android and iOS stores.
HIBOOT is a free app for patients with inflammatory arthritis that was developed with a preliminary qualitative–quantitative study including patients during the process and has scientifically validated content. The number of current users is substantial. Future evaluation of the HIBOOT benefit is needed.