Developing a smartphone app to better assess healing of finger ulcers in systemic sclerosis

Disease - Scleroderma, Raynaud’s phenomenon

Lead applicant - Professor Ariane Herrick

Organisation - University of Manchester

Type of grant - Health Services Research

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £216,773.00

Start date - 1 September 2019

Reference - 22246

What are the aims of this research?

Finger (digital) ulcers (lesions) can be found in around 50% of systemic sclerosis patients, bringing pain and stress to the patient as well as the risk of wounds getting contaminated. The disabling, disfiguring and painful effects mean that there is a large need for clinical intervention. New treatments have led to disappointing results, partly because finger healing is hard to define and assessing healing can be unreliable.

Why is this research important?

The use of smartphone apps in healthcare has shown potential in helping diagnosis and assessment of conditions in way that is objective and highly sensitive to change. It is possible these apps can help during clinical trials.

In this project, patients will help in development of a new app, contributing to a portfolio of over 30,000 finger ulcer images and reporting daily assessments of their ulcers, hand pain and functionality. Further development would lead to a finished app which could analyse finger ulcers and relay feedback to the patient, improving everyday monitoring of healing. The app could provide a better method to measure healing of finger ulcers, which would improve assessment of new treatments in clinical trials.

How will the findings benefit patients?

If the development of the app is successful, patients would be able to record images of their finger ulcers using their personal phones and the smartphone app would be able to analyse the data from ulcer images and reliably predict the wound healing progress. The app would be a useful tool in measuring healing in clinical trials on systemic sclerosis finger ulcers, which would help to identify effective new treatments. Helping the development of new treatments will ultimately improve quality of life, reducing disability and pain.