Not All Medical Apps Are Created Equal: Digitally Managing Chronic Pain

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With physicians looking to treat and manage chronic pain with the latest innovative technology, it's not a surprise that doctors at the Brigham and Women's Hospital are in the process of testing and developing a new app to do just that -- connect pain patients with their clinicians.

Gathering information from chronic pain patients can be a challenge for many physicians, especially since visits are long and far between. Understanding how a patient feels on a daily basis could assist physicians with determining the best treatment strategies.

"As it is now, most providers ask their patients how they have been doing since the last visit and have to rely on each patient's memory and accurate reporting," said Robert Jamison, professor of anesthesia and psychiatry at the Brigham and Harvard Medical School, in an interview with Clinical Pain Advisor.

All apps available to the medical community aren't created equal, however. Jamison said there are plenty of health-related apps available for download on the Internet, "but most were created by individuals with technology backgrounds without input from healthcare professionals."

App stores have a variety of tools designed for healthcare professionals that include reference apps, patient monitoring apps, medical education apps, nursing apps, imaging apps and more.

There's even a website dedicated to reviewing apps for medical professionals. Dubbed iMedicalApps, a resource developed by Everyday Health, the digital property provides insight for healthcare professionals interested in learning more about medical technology and healthcare apps. The site's team is composed of physicians, allied health professionals, medical trainees and mHealth analysts.

Pain management smartphone apps are also available to users. Some of these solutions include: My Pain Diary, Chronic Pain Tracker, Manage My Pain Lite and CatchMyPain. There are also apps dedicated to diseases characterized by chronic pain.

"The majority of available apps offer information and self-monitoring options, but few also provide goal-setting, skills training, and interactive support with providers, as ours does," Jamison said. "We plan to continue to improve our app and feel strongly that this will be the way healthcare in general, and pain medicine in particular, will be managed in the future."

Published in the Medical Economics, a report from earlier in the year revealed that the remote patient monitoring sector could reach sales of $8 billion in just three years.1 It also noted that research on these systems is being conducted worldwide.

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