New grant gives digital boost to fatigue management course
16 November 2023
Fatigue is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of MS. So we’re delighted to announce a new grant for the FACETS digital toolkit, a mobile phone app for helping people with MS to manage their fatigue.
The project is led by Dr Sarah Thomas, Deputy Director at Bournemouth University’s Clinical Research Unit, who developed the ‘FACETS’ fatigue management programme in 2009–10. Sarah is working alongside Huseyin Dogan, Director of Bournemouth’s Computing and Informatics Research Centre, to build the digital toolkit. This supplements the FACETS programme, making it easier for participants to plan and record fatigue management tasks.
“We’re excited to receive funding to complete the Digital Toolkit. It will be a welcome addition to the FACETS programme, as activities can be completed anytime, anywhere and will be much easier to manage. We hope this will lead to better and longer lasting improvements in participants’ fatigue levels.”
Sarah Thomas, Project Lead.
What is FACETS?
FACETS, or Fatigue: Applying Cognitive behavioural and Energy Effectiveness Techniques to lifeStyle, is a six-session group programme involving a mix of presentations, group activities and discussions, and homework tasks.
The programme combines cognitive behavioural approaches to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours with energy effectiveness techniques, which help make the most of the available energy a person has. It helps participants devise practical strategies to manage their fatigue, while discovering ways to counter the negative thoughts that can make lifestyle changes harder.
“Everywhere I go, I’ve got my phone. If I’ve got a few minutes, I sit and fill it in and if it’s fresh and current, I wouldn’t fill in paperwork. Even on the course, I’d fill in the paperwork the night before, or the morning I was coming to the class. But if I had it on my phone, I’d be more inclined to fill it in.”
Focus group participant, 2016 consultation on digital delivery of FACETS
The FACETS digital toolkit app can be used anywhere, at any time, to record things in real time. It should make fatigue-related information much more accurate, and the tasks much less of a chore. Digital information from the app could also potentially be shared with relevant healthcare staff, which could be hugely beneficial.
The weekly homework tasks for the FACETS course involve things like creating sleep/rest routines and recording activities and fatigue levels. These are paper based, even for people taking the online course.
How will our grant be spent?
The team have been building a prototype app for the homework tasks, but it’s not yet complete. Our funding is to finish developing the app and then thoroughly test how well it works.
Once the prototype is ready, participants of FACETS courses – in our MS Research offices and at two other locations – will use it for their homework tasks. The app will also be trialled by a group of people signing up to the online MS fatigue-management course.
The researchers will gather feedback from the FACETS participants, as well as from healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and MS nurses. The team will also be able to capture digital information while people are actively using the app, which will give them a lot of useful information about how they are interacting with different pages and functions.
The project team will include two people with MS, who will provide invaluable insights and advice throughout the whole process.
The team will use the results to make final improvements to the app, before making it available as a free resource to future FACETS participants.
MS Research and FACETS
We have a long history of support for the FACETS programme:
2009: Ran the Bristol arm of an MS Society-funded randomised control trial. This showed improved fatigue levels among participants of the newly designed FACETS course compared with the control group. The research also showed the course would be cost effective to run.
2014–present: Hosted more than 30 FACETS courses, helping more than 230 people with MS to manage their fatigue better.
2017: Supported the early stages of the e-learning fatigue management course based on FACETS, facilitating focus groups between the researchers and people with MS who had attended our FACETS courses.
2016: Provided a test site and linked previous FACETS attendees with researchers to test prototypes of the FACETS digital toolkit.
2023: Awarded a research grant to Sarah Thomas at Bournemouth University to complete and test the digital toolkit app before it is rolled out.