A Mobile Phone Text Messaging Intervention to Manage Fatigue for People with Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, and Stroke: Development and Usability Testing

Kerri A. Morgan, Alex W.K. Wong, Kim Walker, Rachel Heeb Desai, Tina M. Knepper, Pamela K. Newland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Fatigue significantly affects daily functioning in persons with disabilities. Fatigue management can be challenging, and the information provided during routine physician visits to manage fatigue can be overwhelming. One way to address fatigue is to increase knowledge, skills, and confidence for self-management (ie, patient activation). Self-management programs have shown promising effects in targeting fatigue in persons with disabilities. However, satisfaction with self-management programs is low for persons with disabilities, and tailoring interventions to personalized needs has been recommended. SMS text messaging is increasingly being used to implement health behavior change interventions in a person’s natural environment. Little has been done to link mobile health approaches with patient activation and self-management to address fatigue in persons with disabilities. Objective: This study aimed to develop and test a mobile phone–based fatigue self-management SMS text messaging intervention targeting patient activation in 3 groups of persons with disabilities: persons with multiple sclerosis, persons who had a stroke, and persons with a spinal cord injury. Methods: We used evidence-based resources and input from a consumer advisory board (CAB; composed of 2 participants from each of the 3 disability groups) and a neurologist to develop the intervention. The study was conducted using a 4-step process: development of the initial SMS text messaging library and categorization of the content into 9 content areas, review and modification of the SMS text messages by the neurologist and CAB, integration of the content library into a digital platform, and utility testing by CAB members. Results: A total of 6 CAB participants rated SMS text messages covering 9 domain areas of fatigue self-management with good clarity (mean ratings=3.5-5.0 out of 5) and relevance (mean ratings=3.2-5.0 out of 5). Overall, SMS text messaging content was reported by CAB participants as helpful, clear, and well suited for a mobile health intervention. The CAB reached consensus on the time of day that SMS text messages should be sent (morning) and their frequency (once per day). This feedback led the research team to narrow down the program to deliver 48 SMS text messages, 1 per day, Monday through Thursday only, a total of 4 SMS text messages per week, over a 12-week period. The final set of SMS text messages was programmed into a digital platform with a predefined delivery schedule. The usability of the intervention was high, with 55 (83%) out of 66 responses endorsing the highest rating. Conclusions: This study demonstrates a step-by-step process for developing a fatigue self-management SMS text messaging intervention for persons with disabilities. For this population, whose access to health services is often limited, this intervention provides an alternative delivery model to increase access to fatigue information and deliver content that aligns with the person’s needs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere40166
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • disability
  • fatigue
  • mHealth
  • mobile health
  • patient activation


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