Importance: Individually designed single-patient multi-crossover (n-of-1) trials can facilitate tailoring of treatments directed at various conditions, including chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMSP) but are potentially burdensome, which may limit uptake in research and practice.
Objectives: To determine whether patients randomized to participate in an n-of-1 trial supported by a mobile health (mHealth) app would experience less pain and improved global health, adherence, satisfaction, and shared decision making compared with patients assigned to usual care.
Design, Setting, and Participants: This randomized clinical trial compared participation in an individualized, mHealth-supported n-of-1 trial vs usual care. The participating 215 patients had CMSP for at least 6 weeks, had a smartphone or tablet with a data plan, were enrolled in northern California from July 2014 through July 2016, and were followed for up to 1 year by 48 clinicians in academic, community, Veterans Affairs, and military settings.
Interventions: Intervention patients met with their clinicians and used a desktop interface to select treatments and trial parameters for an n-of-1 trial comparing 2 pain-management regimens. The mHealth app provided reminders to take designated treatments on assigned days and to upload responses to daily questions on pain and treatment-associated adverse effects. Control patients received care as usual.
Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was change in the PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System) pain-related interference 8-item short-form scale (full scale range, 41-78) from baseline to 6 months. Secondary outcomes included patient-reported pain intensity, overall health, analgesic adherence, trust in clinician, satisfaction with care, medication-related shared decision making, and, for the n-of-1 group only, participant engagement and experience.
Results: Among 215 patients (108 randomized to the n-of-1 intervention and 107 to control), 102 (47%) were women, and the mean (SD) age was 55.5 (11.1) years. At the 6-month follow-up, pain interference was reduced in both groups, though there was no difference between the intervention and control groups (-1.36 points; 95% CI, -2.91 to 0.19 points; P = .09). There were no advantages in secondary outcomes for intervention patients vs control patients except for higher medication-related shared decision making at 6 months (between-group difference, 11.9 points; 95% CI, 2.6-21.2 points; P = .01). Among patients assigned to the n-of-1 group, 88% (n = 86) affirmed that the mHealth app could help people like them manage their pain.
Conclusions and Relevance: In this population of patients with CMSP, mHealth-supported n-of-1 trials were feasible and associated with a satisfactory user experience, but n-of-1 trial participation did not significantly improve pain interference at 6 months vs usual care.
Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02116621.
This paper looked at the benefits of a mobile device app to assist patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain who were participating in a number of 1 trials of treatment for musculoskeletal pain. A number of outcomes were measured. Compared to patients who did not use the mobile app, the patients who did use the app did not show any significant benefits. While the authors concluded that the mobile device app was beneficial in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain, it is difficult to see how based on the results of this trial.