A Smartphone App to Support Self-Management for People Living With Sjögren's Syndrome: Qualitative Co-Design Workshops

Mia Campbell, Claire McCallum, Tim Rapley, Vincent Deary, John Vines , Jason G. Ellis, Kate Hackett

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Background: Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is the second most common autoimmune rheumatic disease, and the range of symptoms includes fatigue, dryness, sleep disturbances, and pain. Smartphone apps may help deliver a variety of cognitive and behavioral techniques to support self-management in SS. However, app-based interventions must be carefully designed to promote engagement and motivate behavior change.
Objective: We aimed to explore self-management approaches and challenges experienced by people living with SS and produce a corresponding set of design recommendations that inform the design of an engaging, motivating, and evidence-based self-management app for those living with SS.
Methods: We conducted a series of 8 co-design workshops and an additional 3 interviews with participants who were unable to attend a workshop. These were audio recorded, transcribed, and initially thematically analyzed using an inductive approach. Then, the themes were mapped to the Self-Determination Theory domains of competency, autonomy, and relatedness.
Results: Participants experienced a considerable demand in the daily work required in self-managing their SS. The condition demanded unrelenting, fluctuating, and unpredictable mental, physical, and social efforts. Participants used a wide variety of techniques to self-manage their symptoms; however, their sense of competency was undermined by the complexity and interconnected nature of their symptoms and affected by interactions with others. The daily contexts in which this labor was occurring revealed ample opportunities to use digital health aids. The lived experience of participants showed that the constructs of competency, autonomy, and relatedness existed in a complex equilibrium with each other. Sometimes, they were disrupted by tensions, whereas on other occasions, they worked together harmoniously.
Conclusions: An SS self-management app needs to recognize the complexity and overlap of symptoms and the complexities of managing the condition in daily life. Identifying techniques that target several symptoms simultaneously may prevent users from becoming overwhelmed. Including techniques that support assertiveness and communication with others about the condition, its symptoms, and users’ limitations may support users in their interactions with others and improve engagement in symptom management strategies. For digital health aids (such as self-management apps) to provide meaningful support, they should be designed according to human needs such as competence, autonomy, and relatedness. However, the complexities among the 3 Self-Determination Theory constructs should be carefully considered, as they present both design difficulties and opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere54172
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2024


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