Published on: 13 November 2014

Using technology to improve healthcare with myClinicalOutcomes

A rare disease that can lead to the bones in the spine fusing is being helped thanks to a development in the way the condition is monitored.

A partnership between the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health and digital healthcare specialist myClinicalOutcomes has produced a web-based system to help people with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) monitor and manage their symptoms.

The online tool allows patients to record their different types of everyday exercise - such as gardening and childcare - and lead researcher Dr Clare Redshaw explained to us how monitoring these activities will benefit patients: “As AS is such a variable condition, with bouts of activity (known as flare-ups) and inactivity, it can be really difficult for patients to work out the effects of everyday activity on their symptoms. This is perhaps particularly true of exercise – which patients are told they should do, yet can be painful for many.

“We believe that the eHealth system is just the sort of thing patients need to keep track of the exercise they’ve been doing and to be able to work out if it had any particular effect on their symptoms.”

Despite being painful for many patients with AS, physical therapy is a commonly recommended treatment to help keep patients mobile, yet it isn’t entirely clear how effective this activity is. The team hope that this study will create a clearer picture of the positive and negative impacts of exercise on a range of symptoms associated with AS, such as fatigue and joint pain.

The system allows patients to input information, on a weekly basis, about exercise and other everyday physical activities along with recording the severity of their symptoms so that they can track the impact it can have on the disease.
Eventually, the team hope that clinicians will be able to use the tool to observe and monitor the patient’s progress and needs remotely; providing an opportunity to tailor therapy recommendations.

myClinicalOutcomes has played a crucial role in this project, Dr Redshaw said: “We couldn’t have done it without them, they were absolutely essential. The system that people log into has all been developed by the business partner; they manage the system and collate all the anonymised data before handing it over to our research team at the Centre for analysis.”

The project has had support from The National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) who emailed all their members and invited them to participate in the study.

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