Opioid use often becomes a problem for chronic pain sufferers, as opioids can be difficult to manage and can become addictive. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is hoping to reduce using a new smartphone app that tracks patient’s pain data and saves it to their medical records so their doctors can track it too.
Robert Jamison, PhD, Chief Psychologist at the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explained that the app allows doctors to have more feedback about how their patients are doing so that they can improve their treatment plans and better assess each patient’s risk of opioid abuse and addiction. The app, which is available for both iPhones and Androids, is being tested with both cancer and non-cancer patients. It tracks a patient’s use of medications, as well as his or her side effects and improvement or worsening of pain.
The study of the app at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as reported by drugfree.org, has enrolled 60 chronic pain patients. About half of the patients use opioids to treat their chronic pain. The patients initially signed on to use the app for three months, and then were given the opportunity to continue using it for another three months. All of the 60 patients opted to continue using it for an additional three months. The patients get to choose a time to get a daily reminder on their phones to use the app. They rate their pain level from the last 24 hours on a 1-to-10 scale that covers details such as how their pain has interfered with sleep or activities, and how their pain has changed since the previous day. The app saves this information and displays it as a line graph so doctors can track their patients’ pain, mood, activity, and sleep over a period of time.
The app also includes information intended to help patients deal with their chronic pain in other ways than simply taking more medicine. It encourages them to find ways to decrease stress and relax. Additionally, half of the patients in the study receive supportive text messages according to their pain levels. Dr. Jamison said that these messages give patients the sense that they are being cared for and supported.The app also gives doctors the information and help they often need when dealing with tricky cases that call for the prescription of opioids.
After six months in the study, the researchers found a reduction in opioid intake by the patients, as well as a decrease in patients who ran out of their medication too early. These promising initial results are exciting for doctors and chronic pain patients alike.
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