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iPhone Sensors in Tracking Outcome Variables of the 30-Second Chair Stand Test and Stair Climb Test to Evaluate Disability: Cross-Sectional Pilot Study.



Performance tests are important to characterize patient disabilities and functional changes. The Osteoarthritis Research Society International and others recommend the 30-second Chair Stand Test and Stair Climb Test, among others, as core tests that capture two distinct types of disability during activities of daily living. However, these two tests are limited by current protocols of testing in clinics. There is a need for an alternative that allows remote testing of functional capabilities during these tests in the osteoarthritis patient population.


Objectives are to (1) develop an app for testing the functionality of an iPhone's accelerometer and gravity sensor and (2) conduct a pilot study objectively evaluating the criterion validity and test-retest reliability of outcome variables obtained from these sensors during the 30-second Chair Stand Test and Stair Climb Test.


An iOS app was developed with data collection capabilities from the built-in iPhone accelerometer and gravity sensor tools and linked to Google Firebase. A total of 24 subjects performed the 30-second Chair Stand Test with an iPhone accelerometer collecting data and an external rater manually counting sit-to-stand repetitions. A total of 21 subjects performed the Stair Climb Test with an iPhone gravity sensor turned on and an external rater timing the duration of the test on a stopwatch. App data from Firebase were converted into graphical data and exported into MATLAB for data filtering. Multiple iterations of a data processing algorithm were used to increase robustness and accuracy. MATLAB-generated outcome variables were compared to the manually determined outcome variables of each test. Pearson's correlation coefficients (PCCs), Bland-Altman plots, intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs), standard errors of measurement, and repeatability coefficients were generated to evaluate criterion validity, agreement, and test-retest reliability of iPhone sensor data against gold-standard manual measurements.


App accelerometer data during the 30-second Chair Stand Test (PCC=.890) and gravity sensor data during the Stair Climb Test (PCC=.865) were highly correlated to gold-standard manual measurements. Greater than 95% of values on Bland-Altman plots comparing the manual data to the app data fell within the 95% limits of agreement. Strong intraclass correlation was found for trials of the 30-second Chair Stand Test (ICC=.968) and Stair Climb Test (ICC=.902). Standard errors of measurement for both tests were found to be within acceptable thresholds for MATLAB. Repeatability coefficients for the 30-second Chair Stand Test and Stair Climb Test were 0.629 and 1.20, respectively.


App-based performance testing of the 30-second Chair Stand Test and Stair Climb Test is valid and reliable, suggesting its applicability to future, larger-scale studies in the osteoarthritis patient population.

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