Evaluating more naturalistic outcome measures: A 1-year smartphone study in multiple sclerosis

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In this cohort of individuals with and without multiple sclerosis (MS), we illustrate some of the novel approaches that smartphones provide to monitor patients with chronic neurologic disorders in their natural setting.


Thirty-eight participant pairs (MS and cohabitant) aged 18–55 years participated in the study. Each participant received an Android HTC Sensation 4G smartphone containing a custom application suite of 19 tests capturing participant performance and patient-reported outcomes (PROs). Over 1 year, participants were prompted daily to complete one assigned test.


A total of 22 patients with MS and 17 cohabitants completed the entire study. Among patients with MS, low scores on PROs relating to mental and visual function were associated with dropout (p < 0.05). We illustrate several novel features of a smartphone platform. First, fluctuations in MS outcomes (e.g., fatigue) were assessed against an individual's ambient environment by linking responses to meteorological data. Second, both response accuracy and speed for the Ishihara color vision test were captured, highlighting the benefits of both active and passive data collection. Third, a new trait, a person-specific learning curve in neuropsychological testing, was identified using spline analysis. Finally, averaging repeated measures over the study yielded the most robust correlation matrix of the different outcome measures.


We report the feasibility of, and barriers to, deploying a smartphone platform to gather useful passive and active performance data at high frequency in an unstructured manner in the field. A smartphone platform may therefore enable large-scale naturalistic studies of patients with MS or other neurologic diseases.

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