If you’re looking for a multiple sclerosis (MS) app, there are a lot of choices. On Google play and iTunes, a search for “MS apps” could yield more than 1,000 results. After you filter out all the ones that aren’t in English or aren’t designed just for MS, you’ll still have around 100 to sort through. How can you know which is best for you?
First, decide what info you want most. MS diagnosis and treatment, MS tests, or MS self-management, perhaps? You practically can’t go wrong; research shows mobile apps for MS can empower you, help you stick to your treatment plan, and sometimes give your doctor insight that can improve your care.
Before you click a download button, think about how you want to use the app: casually or as a tool to guide treatment discussions? If the latter is your goal, first find out if your doctor has any suggestions. Some could be more useful than others.
Help Your Doctor Help You
MS apps are usually developed with a lot of patient input, so the features should appeal to you. However, the information may not be that useful if you want to share it with your doctor.
“What patients think is valuable to doctors is often different than what’s actually valuable to doctors,” says James Bowen, MD, medical director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle.
When an app asks patients every day, “How do you feel?” that doesn’t give us actionable information, he says. “What doctors really need are outcomes that are validated for various symptoms, such as fatigue.”
Bowen was central to the selection and validation of measurement scales, including a fatigue scale, for My MS Manager, an app created by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA).
Some apps, including the one from MSAA, can generate reports on various metrics and send them to your doctor. This could be an easy way to share updates more often, but you’ll need to make sure your doctor’s office is both is able to — and wants to — receive such reports.
An App for Everything
MS apps can offer a wealth of information and helpful tools for disease management, but you might want an app focused on some other aspect of life with MS.
“Our experience isn’t that there is one app that works for all, but instead there are categories of needs that people with MS share,” says Deborah Backus, PhD, director of multiple sclerosis research at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation centers. “People with MS have told us they [want] apps to help them remember things. They use apps as memory aids.”
You may want a symptom tracker, especially if you have cognitive issues that get in the way of remembering details or events your doctor should know. Or you may want an app that helps you remember appointments or when to take your medicine.
Some apps can also connect you with — or even function as — studies on multiple sclerosis. The information you enter into your smartphone goes to researchers studying different aspects of the disease.
A few MS apps have features that align with what your doctor wants you to track. “One app that our clinicians like is the BEST Suite,” Backus says. It’s a suite of five apps with activities and education. An arm of the Shepherd Center funded part of its development. “Some features, like PaceMyDay, have been particularly useful for managing energy and fatigue.”
MS Apps to Try
Doctors don’t rely on MS apps, at least not yet, to capture and understand your health information. So you shouldn’t be frustrated if your doctor doesn’t have an opinion them or doesn’t have any app suggestions.
MS apps like these are mostly for your benefit, to give you a better picture of your health or help you live better with MS, by itself or with other conditions:
MANAGE YOUR MS
My MS ManagerFree, available for Apple and AndroidFeatures: Track symptoms, create reports for health care team, get medication reminders, read MS-related news, find your nearest emergency roomPros: Manage multiple aspects of the disease, piloted in a clinical setting, HIPAA-compliantWhy you can trust it: Created by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (in partnership with @Point of Care); scientifically validated metrics
PARTICIPATE IN MS RESEARCH
Floodlight OpenFree, available for Apple and AndroidFeatures: An MS study in app form with games, tasks (including hand function and mobility tasks), and tracking. Provides researchers with insight on your ability to perform simple tasks.Pros: An easy way to participate in an MS research study; contribute to global MS knowledge; support the study’s ultimate goal to “develop and create practical tools to improve the lives of people with MS.”Why you can trust it: From health care giant F. Hoffmann-LaRoche, developed with input from leading MS experts
MANAGE HEALTH AND LIFESTYLE WITH MS/NEUROMUSCULAR CONDITIONS
$10, available for AppleFeatures: Includes the PaceMyDay app to plan your day and manage energy; ReachMyGoals to help you set, monitor, and accomplish goals; StrategizeMyLife to document and track effective strategies; CompleteMyToDos to interactively create and tick off a to-do listPros: Shares data across all apps in the suite; stays up to date with ongoing testing, development, and input from people living with cognitive challenges related to disease or injuryWhy you can trust it: Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research; developed in part with Atlanta’s Shepherd Center
STAY ON TOP OF YOUR MEDS
Medisafe Pill Reminder & Medication TrackerFree (premium version available with subscription), available for Apple and AndroidFeatures: Pill reminder/alarm, automatic time zone detection, drug interaction checker, refill reminders, 20+ trackable health measurements apply to multiple conditionsPros: Helps keep you on track with medication for multiple conditions, which in turn boosts your overall health; can reduce your risk of drug-to-drug interactionsWhy you can trust it: Follows strict privacy laws (HIPAA and GDPR compliant)
MANAGE CARE PLANS FOR MULTIPLE CONDITIONS AND PEOPLE
Care ClinicFree ($9.99/m or $59.99/yr for advanced features), available for Apple and AndroidFeatures: Health tracker/reminder app includes symptom tracker, medication tracker, caregiver reminders and alerts, food and drink database, store vaccination records; works with Apple Health and Google FitPros: Manage chronic, acute, preventive medical care for all your health concerns; up to six family members can share app; one person can track care plan for familyWhy you can trust it: Password protected app; developed in with medical advisors, supported by several medical groups
Acta Informatica Medica: “Mobile Applications for Multiple Sclerosis: A Focus on Self-Management.”
James Bowen, MD, medical director, Multiple Sclerosis Center, Swedish Neuroscience Institute, Seattle.
Deborah Backus, PhD, director of multiple sclerosis research, Shepherd Center, Atlanta.
Shepherd Center: “About Shepherd Center.”
Google Play: “My MS Manager,” “Floodlight Open,” “Medisafe,” “Care Clinic.”
Apple Store: “BEST Suite.”
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