Using iKOALA to sustain physical activity for long-term self-management of osteoarthritis

Using iKOALA to sustain physical activity for long-term self-management of osteoarthritis

A project led by Dr Simon Jones at the University of Bath

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent chronic condition and a leading cause of disability in the UK. Physical activity (PA) is considered the most effective non-pharmacological treatment for reducing OA symptoms and enhancing quality of life, however, individuals with hip and knee OA have very low levels of activity. Although face-to-face OA rehabilitation programmes are effective, they are highly resource-intensive. Digital interventions provide resources for short term rehabilitation of a fixed structure, but lack flexibility, personalisation and social support which can empower patients to take control of their care. Hence, there is an opportunity to help individuals thrive by maintaining sustainable, physically active lifestyles that leverage social support, personalised information and PA recommendations. This will extend support beyond short term rehabilitation options currently offered and provide direct benefits to patients and associated indirect healthcare benefits.

Our research will involve patients and physiotherapists as co-creators in the development of iKOALA (Intelligent Knee OA Lifestyle App), enabling: (i) collection of data to monitor symptoms, patient activation, goals, attitudes to, and preferences for, physical activity; (ii) in-app social interactions and feedback mechanisms that support a strong sense of relatedness amongst OA patients; and (iii) intelligent physical activity recommendations, driven by models of expert knowledge and contextual data from users. Our collaboration brings together the necessary interdisciplinary expertise to develop a tool providing personalised, long-term management of OA in a resource efficient manner for the NHS.

The app resulting from the project is summarised in a YouTube clip.

This work and its findings are presented in a video by the Project Investigator here: