Development of a Social Network for People Without a Diagnosis (RarePairs): Evaluation Study.
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AbstractBackground: Diagnostic delay in rare disease (RD) is common, occasionally lasting up to more than 20 years. In attempting to reduce it, diagnostic support tools have been studied extensively. However, social platforms have not yet been used for systematic diagnostic support. This paper illustrates the development and prototypic application of a social network using scientifically developed questions to match individuals without a diagnosis. Objective: The study aimed to outline, create, and evaluate a prototype tool (a social network platform named RarePairs), helping patients with undiagnosed RDs to find individuals with similar symptoms. The prototype includes a matching algorithm, bringing together individuals with similar disease burden in the lead-up to diagnosis. Methods: We divided our project into 4 phases. In phase 1, we used known data and findings in the literature to understand and specify the context of use. In phase 2, we specified the user requirements. In phase 3, we designed a prototype based on the results of phases 1 and 2, as well as incorporating a state-of-the-art questionnaire with 53 items for recognizing an RD. Lastly, we evaluated this prototype with a data set of 973 questionnaires from individuals suffering from different RDs using 24 distance calculating methods. Results: Based on a step-by-step construction process, the digital patient platform prototype, RarePairs, was developed. In order to match individuals with similar experiences, it uses answer patterns generated by a specifically designed questionnaire (Q53). A total of 973 questionnaires answered by patients with RDs were used to construct and test an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm like the k-nearest neighbor search. With this, we found matches for every single one of the 973 records. The cross-validation of those matches showed that the algorithm outperforms random matching significantly. Statistically, for every data set the algorithm found at least one other record (match) with the same diagnosis. Conclusions: Diagnostic delay is torturous for patients without a diagnosis. Shortening the delay is important for both doctors and patients. Diagnostic support using AI can be promoted differently. The prototype of the social media platform RarePairs might be a low-threshold patient platform, and proved suitable to match and connect different individuals with comparable symptoms. This exchange promoted through RarePairs might be used to speed up the diagnostic process. Further studies include its evaluation in a prospective setting and implementation of RarePairs as a mobile phone app.
CitationJ Med Internet Res. 2020 Sep 29;22(9):e21849. doi: 10.2196/21849.
AffiliationHZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany.
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