Tampa teacher helps app developer improve arthritis care

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Millions of people suffer from painful arthritis and a new app being developed may provide some relief.

Math teacher Shelley Fritz shares her passion with students at Miles Elementary school in Tampa. But her love of numbers and equations isn't restricted to her job.

Shelley's also working with researchers to improve arthritis care.

"Doctors are inclined to look at blood test results and say, 'Well, your treatment seems to be working because your blood results look great,' whereas we could be feeling terrible," she says.

Shelley has rheumatoid arthritis and for the past three years, she's been helping Creaky Joints, makers of Arthritis Power, fine-tune their app. It tracks symptoms like pain, sleep disturbances, depression, and activity levels.

It creates a quantifiable bridge between researchers, doctors, and patients.

Research director Benjamin Nowell, says Arthritis Power allows nearly 12,000 users to contribute to patient-centered research. Unlike clinical trials that often take years to complete, information gathered through the app can be shared immediately.            

"So if we find sleeping an extra one hour per night makes a difference in people’s experience of pain, that’s the kind of information we want to share back out," Nowell explains.

The app also functions on a personal level for Shelley. She shares her reports with her doctor, to help guide medication changes.

"I said look at my data over the last six months. My fatigue levels are increasing, my pain levels are off the charts, they're way above the norm and I feel like we need to do something else in my treatment plan," she recalls.

The questions take about five minutes to answer and can be completed on the web or on a mobile phone.

"I do try to use it every week because if I were only to track my symptoms when I felt bad, it wouldn't be valid data," Shelley explains.

It’s data that's helping her remain front and center in the classroom. 

For more information on Arthritis Power, visit https://arthritispower.creakyjoints.org/.