Developing an App Which Will Empower Patients to Self-Diagnose and Manage Knee Osteoarthritis

Scientific Study Title:

Power to the Patients: Reshaping Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosis and Secondary Prevention with E-Health


Principal Investigator:

Linda Li PT, PhD (UBC), John Esdaile MD, MPH, FRCPC, FCAHS (UBC)


Start and End Date:

2018 – 2023


Why do this research?

For people with knee osteoarthritis (OA), early diagnosis and intervention before damage is advanced makes a difference. At this stage, the key to treatment is exercise, weight management, and use of the safest pain medication. Alarmingly, studies in Ontario and British Columbia have shown that the majority diagnosed with knee OA are not getting the right advice, and worse still, many who are seeing a physician are not being diagnosed quickly enough, or not diagnosed at all. We have previously developed and tested a questionnaire and a mobile app, Arthritis ID, to assist a person with knee pain to know they have knee OA with 95 per cent certainty. It can detect people with x-ray evidence of knee OA, but also those with very early disease (i.e., normal x-rays and only mild changes on MRI). We have also developed free online/mobile apps – OPEN and FitViz, for people to self-manage their knee OA. Currently, the three apps act independently of each other each serving a distinct function and providing a different user experience. However, they also share a number of overlapping functions (both Arthritis ID and OPEN offer educational materials; OPEN and Fitviz have similar physical activity goal-setting functions). Using these apps in their current state is cumbersome and hindering their uptake. By combining these apps into a new super-app, we will empower patients to take charge and prevent disabling pain and improve care to a gold standard level.


What will be done?

The KneeOA app will combine three apps (Arthritis ID, OPEN, and FitViz) into one. Participants will be screened and if eligible will be given full access to the app. The knee health app will provide education about knee pain and OA, it will help guide participants in setting their activity goals, give tips on how to be active, and provide suggestions on local facilities via Google Maps. Participants will be asked to look at their activity levels at least once a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, participants will be asked if they would participate in a virtual interview by phone or Zoom video conference to go over their experiences with the KneeOA app.


Who is involved?

We will recruit 50 participants for this study. They may be eligible if they:

  1. Have an iPhone with iOS 13.1 or better
  2. Are over the age of 40 years.
  3. Have knee pain in one or both knees.
  4. Have had knee pain, aching, or discomfort for 28 days in the past year.
  5. Are physically inactive.

Recruitment will be done through REACH BC, social media platforms, and ARC Arthritis Patient Advisory Board members’ recommendations.


Who is funding this research?

Canadian Initiative for Outcomes in Rheumatology Care (CIORA)



Chris Shaw MSc, PhD (SFU), Jolanda Cibere MD, FRCPC, PhD (Arthritis Research Canada & UBC), Gillian Hawker MD, MSc (Women’s College Hospital & UoT), Hui Xie MS, PhD (Arthritis Research Canada & SFU).


Research Staff:

Smruthi Ramachandra, Research Trainee, Arthritis Research Canada


How do people get involved?

Participants from British Columbia will be recruited through REACH BC (online research participation platform), social media platforms (Arthritis Research Canada website, Twitter, Facebook), and Arthritis Patient Advisory Board recommendations.

For more information, please contact: Smruthi Ramachandran, 604-207-4054, knee@arthritisresearch.ca