JMIR Publications, JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 4(8), p. e14351, 2020
Background Despite the growing interest and exponential popularity of mobile health (mHealth) apps for long-term conditions such as rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) and their self-management, patients are rarely directly consulted and involved in the app development process. Objective This study aims to explore the needs, experiences, and views of people diagnosed with RMDs on mHealth apps. Methods The study used a mixed methods approach: (1) an initial qualitative phase via a patient focus group in the UK and (2) a survey disseminated through national organizations for patients with RMDs across European countries, the United States, Canada, and Australia. Results The focus group included six patients with life-long musculoskeletal conditions. Half had used a self-management app at least once. The use of existing apps was reported as time-consuming due to a lack of functionality. The need for bespoke apps was voiced by all participants. Among 424 patients across European countries, the United States, Canada, and Australia, the main age group was 45 to 54 years (122/424, 28.7%), and 86.8% (368/424) were women. Half of the respondents were aware of the existence of apps to support self-management of their RMDs (188/355, 53%), with 42% (79/188) of them currently using such devices. Patients were mostly interested in an app to self-monitor their health parameters (259/346, 74.9%) and disease activity (221/346, 63.9%) or communicate directly with their health care provider (200/346, 57.8%). Conclusions Patients considered that using an app could help them to self-manage their RMD condition if it was tailored to their needs and co-developed with health professionals. The development of such apps will require standardization and regular quality control.