PhD Studentship: Smartphones for Continuous, Mobile Patient Assessment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Ref: AACE-CED-107

Deadline: Applications will be accepted at any time until the position is filled.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease causing pain and loss of function. It also causes an acceleration of a number of features associated with ageing such as sarcopenia, reduced mobility and dependence on others. Multiple factors affect a RA sufferer’s perception of their condition: joint inflammation, mobility and pain, levels of physical activity, and mental wellbeing. Monitoring these factors is challenging for both patient and clinician. With RA outpatient appointments often up to six months apart within the NHS, only snapshot measurements inform treatment and patient feedback. It essential that new ways to monitor, report and assist people with this long-term, debilitating condition are developed. 

The value of detailed quantitative assessment has been shown, but such assessments are not available at routine visits to rheumatologists and patient information between visits is often anecdotal. Moderate physical activity is beneficial to RA sufferers and a record of accurate levels of activity would be a useful clinical measure, however, reporting activity is very subjective. Reliable continuous assessment could transform both patients’ and clinicians’ relationship with RA.

This studentship will aim to make activity sampling throughout daily life possible, based on data from micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) sensors, which lie ready to use inside the ubiquitous iPhone, Android and Windows smartphones. The touch screen interface of these platforms is also an excellent vehicle through which to combine the more common, and mostly subjective, disease activity scores with an objective activity score derived from the MEMS sensors to yield potentially more reliable information for patients and clinicians.

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The multi-disciplinary research will be facilitated by the University of Southampton (UoS)/NHS Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit (SMBRU). This collaboration brings together the NIHR Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Alex Forrester, Computational Engineering and Rehabilitation & Health Technologies research groups, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2713, (0)7723 337002.

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