A Pilot Comparison of a Smartphone App With or Without 2-Way Messaging Among Chronic Pain Patients: Who Benefits From a Pain App?

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Abstract

Objectives:

The overall aim of this study was to determine the effect of introducing a smartphone pain application (app), for both Android and iPhone devices that enables chronic pain patients to assess, monitor, and communicate their status to their providers.

Methods:

This study recruited 105 chronic pain patients to use a smartphone pain app and half of the patients (N=52) had 2-way messaging available through the app. All patients completed baseline measures and were asked to record their progress every day for 3 months, with the opportunity to continue for 6 months. All participants were supplied a Fitbit to track daily activity. Summary line graphs were posted to each of the patients’ electronic medical records and physicians were notified of their patient’s progress.

Results:

Ninety patients successfully downloaded the pain app. Average age of the participants was 47.1 (range, 18 to 72), 63.8% were female and 32.3% reported multiple pain sites. Adequate validity and reliability was found between the daily assessments and standardized questionnaires (r=0.50) and in repeated daily measures (pain, r=0.69; sleep, r=0.83). The app was found to be easily introduced and well tolerated. Those patients assigned to the 2-way messaging condition on average tended to use the app more and submit more daily assessments (95.6 vs. 71.6 entries), but differences between groups were not significant. Pain-app satisfaction ratings overall were high.

Discussion:

This study highlights some of the challenges and benefits in utilizing smartphone apps to manage chronic pain patients, and provides insight into those individuals who might benefit from mHealth technology.

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