Systematic Review and Evaluation of Pain-Related Mobile Applications

Systematic Review and Evaluation of Pain-Related Mobile Applications

Anabela G. Silva, Alexandra Queirós, Hilma Caravau, Alina Ferreira, Nelson P. Rocha
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1680-5.ch008
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Pain and in particular chronic pain is highly prevalent in the general population across all age groups. A survey including 15 European countries and Israel and 46,394 adults (>18 years), found that chronic pain prevalence varies between 12% in Spain to 30% in Norway (Breivik, Collett, Ventafridda, Cohen, & Gallacher, 2006). Of these, 46% reported pain for 10 years or longer that interfered with daily activities such as maintaining relationships with family and friends, performing household activities, walking or exercising. When asked how many times they had seen their doctor because of the condition that causes their pain, 60% of respondents reported to have seen their doctor two to nine times and 11% had seen their doctor at least 10 times. The high prevalence, high disability and high costs associated with pain that were reported in this study are supported by findings of other authors in other countries and for specific pain conditions (Jakobsson, 2010; Leadley, Armstrong, Lee, Allen, & Kleijnen, 2012; Manchikanti, Singh, Datta, Cohen, & Hirsch, 2009; Parsons et al., 2007).

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mobile health (mHealth) technologies as a component of eHealth. mHealth covers medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants, and other wireless devices (WHO, 2011). It is an emerging and rapidly developing field that can contribute to the transformation of healthcare and increase its quality and efficiency while simultaneously containing costs (de la Vega & Miro, 2014). The International association for the Study of Pain has published in December 2013 a clinical update recognizing the importance of mobile technology in managing chronic pain as a means to improve access to healthcare, contain costs and improve clinical outcomes (Vardeh, Edwards, & Jamison, 2013). However, this publication also highlights the need to evaluate existing solutions.

Electronic applications can cover a wide range of purposes including easy access to information related to patient’s health conditions or treatments, provide patients with simple applications to organize and track their health information, help patients self-manage their disease or conditions, help patients to document, show or communicate potential conditions to health care providers and enable patients or health care providers to interact with health care record systems (US Food and Drug Administration, 2013). In terms of pain related applications, the most common include:

  • 1.

    Electronic diaries which are used to monitor aspects of pain such as pain intensity, location, aggravating factors and/or intake of medication,

  • 2.

    Internet-based interventions which usually consist of structured self-administered therapy programs and

  • 3.

    Text messaging, for communication between patients and healthcare professionals (Vardeh et al., 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reliability: Relates to the consistency of repeated measurements.

Validity: Relates to whether the measurement device is measuring what it is intended to.

Clinical Usefulness: Refers as to whether using the application results in any benefit for the patient as for example more accurate diagnosis or more appropriate care.

Usability: Relates to user interfaces ease of use.

m-Health: A component of eHealth, that covers medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices.

Pain: According to the International Association for the study of pain, pain is defined as unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.

Application: A type of software designed to run on a mobile device.

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