Patients using an app to help manage symptoms of gout successfully controlled their condition, according to a study by the University of Edinburgh.
Using a smartphone app called GoutSMART, patients communicated their results to a healthcare team, who provided instant treatment advice allowing patients to better manage urate levels compared with regular care.
Gout currently affects 2.5% of people in the UK, although disease incidence is increasing. It is the most common cause of inflammatory arthritis and can lead to sudden attacks of intense joint pain and reduced quality of life.
The amount of uric acid in the blood is the most critical risk factor for developing and controlling gout. However, less than 40% of patients in the UK are offered urate-lowering therapy, which the researchers say is due to a shortage of supervising healthcare workers and a lack of treatment knowledge on the patient’s part, despite there being cheap, effective drug treatments available.
Between April 2019 and March 2020, 60 patients were recruited for the study from across Edinburgh. Patients were assigned to either a self-supported management group, which involved managing their condition using an at-home finger-prick test to measure their urate level or a group which received traditional care.
Fifty-six men and four women took part in the study, and the mean age of the participants was 53 years of age. The researchers found that urate target levels of 0.30mmol/L were reached in less than 24 weeks by 73% of the supported self-management group. Only 15% of the participants in the usual care group managed to reach target urate levels in the same timeframe.
Dr Philip Riches from the University of Edinburgh said: ‘Supporting patients to manage their own gout can transform clinical outcomes, and the approach we have developed offers a way of doing this without putting more pressure on an already stretched healthcare service.’
The researchers say more extensive trials are now needed to evaluate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of self-managing gout in this way.