Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access

App Aids Those With Multiple Sclerosis

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MS Assistant is a health and wellness self-management app that assists individuals aging with multiple sclerosis (MS). This evidence-based app helps users track their symptoms and share health data with providers. In addition, users can connect with other people who have MS, play games to improve cognition and balance, and stay informed with relevant educational resources. MS Assistant was developed by Ljilja Ruzic Kascak, a Ph.D. student in industrial design, who was awarded a mobile application seed grant from TechSAge.

Problem Statement

A majority of individuals diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience a significant decline in their abilities due to the progression of MS after five years post-diagnosis. Following this period, they need to learn how to cope with the functional limitations caused by the condition and how to age with MS. As a result, they have to manage the effects of MS on their lives every day. mHealth applications provide potential support for the self-management of the condition.

Solution

MS Assistant is a holistic mHealth self-management app that helps individuals aging with MS to understand their condition by reporting and tracking all the factors that cause their symptoms and exacerbations. It provides reports and charts to identify the triggers of the symptoms and their patterns. Users can email the reports to their healthcare providers, caregivers, and family members. In addition, the app integrates communication with other individuals diagnosed with MS to provide support, health and wellness goals, reliable MS news, resources, and tips, games that improve their cognition and balance, including virtual reality games, telehealth, and emergency contacts. Moreover, the app sends the alerts to the healthcare professionals in a case of an emergency or a particular need.

MS Assistant is evidence-based app, designed based on the results of the qualitative study about the health and wellness needs in people aging with MS and the ways those needs can be addressed using the specific functional features in mobile apps. Additionally, the app was designed based on the Universal Design Mobile Interface Guidelines, UDMIG v.2.1.

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RE5016-01-00) under the auspices of The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technologies to Support Successful Aging with Disability (RERC TechSAge). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

This research was conducted in coordination with the CATEA Consumer Network (CCN) at Georgia Institute of Technology and Human Factors and Aging Laboratory, which provided the capability to carry out the research that supports the development of innovative technologies that promote health, wellness, and independence for people with disabilities and older adults. I would like to thank Jon Sanford, Maureen Ann Linden, Wendy Rogers, and Kimberly Preusse for their help and support on this project.

Current Stage: Usability Study

Usability testing with individuals diagnosed with MS and recruitment of the research participants is currently in the process. The purpose of this study is to understand the overall usability of this mHealth app to determine the effectiveness of UDMIG v.2.1 in producing a universally usable product.

The Call for the Participation in the Study:
Research Participants Needed for Usability Study of MS-Specific Mobile App

The Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at Georgia Tech is conducting a study to evaluate the usability of one Multiple Sclerosis-specific mobile application. Findings from the study will be used to inform the Universal Design Mobile Interface Guidelines, UDMIG, and the design of the mobile health and wellness application for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis. The study will take about one (1) to two (2) hours of your time. Participation will not require travel to Georgia Tech. We can bring the study to you! Participants will be paid $20 for their time and additional $5 for the travel expenses if you decide to travel to Georgia Tech. You must be at least 18 years old and have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis for at least five (5) years. If you have used mobile applications, or you are interested in using one, would like to participate in the study, please contact Ljilja Ruzic Kascak at ljilja@gatech.edu by April 30, 2018.

Future Work

The future work will include the development of the version of this app for the caregivers, family members, and healthcare providers, as well as the work on the design of mHealth apps for other chronic conditions.

Related Publications

Ruzic L., Mahajan H. P., & Sanford J. A. (2017, March), Universally Designed mHealth App for Individuals Aging with Multiple Sclerosis. The Third International Conference on Universal Accessibility in the Internet of Things and SmartEnvironments (Smart Accessibility 2018) IARIA.

Ruzic L., and Sanford J. A. (2018), Needs Assessment: Functional Features in Mobile Health and Wellness Self-Monitoring Applications for People with Multiple Sclerosis. Journal of Healthcare Informatics Research, 2017. (accepted)

Ruzic L., Harrington C. N., & Sanford J. A. (2017), Universal Design Mobile Interface Guidelines for mobile health and wellness apps for an aging population including people aging with disabilities. International Journal on Advances in Software, vol. 10, pp. 372-384.

Ruzic L. and Sanford J. A. (2017), Universal design mobile interface guidelines (UDMIG) for an aging population. CFP Mobile E-Health, Springer, in press.

Ruzic, L. and Sanford, J. A. (2017, July). Usability of Mobile Consumer Applications for Individuals Aging with Multiple Sclerosis. In International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. Springer International Publishing.

Harrington C., Ruzic, L. and Sanford, J. A. (2017, July). Universally Accessible mHealth Apps for Older Adults: Towards increasing adoption and sustained engagement. In International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. Springer International Publishing.

Ruzic L., Harrington C. N., & Sanford J. A. (2017, March), Design and Evaluation of Mobile Interfaces for an Aging Population. The Tenth International Conference on Advances in Computer-Human Interactions (ACHI 2017) IARIA.

Ruzic, L., Lee, S. T., Liu, Y. E., & Sanford, J. A. (2016, July). Development of Universal Design Mobile Interface Guidelines (UDMIG) for Aging Population. In International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 98-108). Springer International Publishing.

Kascak, L. R., Liu, E. Y., & Sanford, J. A. (2015, August). Universal Design (UD) guidelines for interactive mobile voting interfaces for older adults. In International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 215-225). Springer International Publishing.

Kascak, L. R., RĂ©bola, C. B., & Sanford, J. A. (2014, September). Integrating Universal Design (UD) principles and mobile design guidelines to improve design of mobile health applications for older adults. In Healthcare Informatics (ICHI), 2014 IEEE International Conference on (pp. 343-348). IEEE.

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