Using postmarket surveillance to assess safety-related events in a digital rehabilitation app (kaia app): Observational study

Deeptee Jain, Kevin Norman, Zachary Werner, Bar Makovoz, Turner Baker, Stephan Huber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Low back pain (LBP) affects nearly 4 out of 5 individuals during their lifetime and is the leading cause of disability globally. Digital therapeutics are emerging as effective treatment options for individuals experiencing LBP. Despite the growth of evidence demonstrating the benefits of these therapeutics in reducing LBP and improving functional outcomes, little data has been systematically collected on their safety profiles. Objective: This study aims to evaluate the safety profile of a multidisciplinary digital therapeutic for LBP, the Kaia App, by performing a comprehensive assessment of reported adverse events (AEs) by users as captured by a standardized process for postmarket surveillance. Methods: All users of a multidisciplinary digital app that includes physiotherapy, mindfulness techniques, and education for LBP (Kaia App) from 2018 to 2019 were included. Relevant messages sent by users via the app were collected according to a standard operating procedure regulating postmarket surveillance of the device. These messages were then analyzed to determine if they described an adverse event (AE). Messages describing an AE were then categorized based on the type of AE, its seriousness, and its relatedness to the app, and they were described by numerical counts. User demographics, including age and gender, and data on app use were collected and evaluated to determine if they were risk factors for increased AE reporting. Results: Of the 138,337 active users of the Kaia App, 125 (0.09%) reported at least one AE. Users reported 0.00014 AEs per active day on the app. The most common nonserious AE reported was increased pain. Other nonserious AEs reported included muscle issues, unpleasant sensations, headache, dizziness, and sleep disturbances. One serious AE, a surgery, was reported. Details of the event and its connection to the intervention were not obtainable, as the user did not provide more information when asked to do so; therefore, it was considered to be possibly related to the intervention. There was no relationship between gender and AE reporting (P>.99). Users aged 25 to 34 years had reduced odds (odds ratio [OR] 0.31, 95% CI 0.08-0.95; P=.03) of reporting AEs, while users aged 55 to 65 years (OR 2.53, 95% CI 1.36-4.84, P=.002) and ≥75 years (OR 4.36, 95% CI 1.07-13.26; P=.02) had increased odds. AEs were most frequently reported by users who had 0 to 99 active days on the app, and less frequently reported by users with more active days on the app. Conclusions: This study on the Kaia App provides the first comprehensive assessment of reported AEs associated with real-world use of digital therapeutics for lower back pain. The overall rate of reported AEs was very low, but significant reporting bias is likely to be present. The AEs reported were generally consistent with those described for in-person therapies for LBP.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere25453
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adverse event
  • Digital health
  • Digital therapeutics
  • Lower back pain
  • Multidisciplinary pain treatment
  • Pain
  • Safety


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