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Pain buddy: A novel use of m-health in the management of children’s cancer pain

Journal title
Computers in biology and medicine
Publication year
Fortier, M. A.; Chung, W. W.; Martinez, A.; Gago-Masague, S.; Sender, L.

BACKGROUND: Over 12,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States. In addition to symptoms associated with their disease, children undergoing chemotherapy frequently experience significant pain, which is unfortunately often undertreated. The field of m-Health offers an innovative avenue for pain assessment and intervention in the home setting. The current study describes the development and initial evaluation of a tablet-based program, Pain Buddy, aimed to enhance pain management and foster improved quality of life in children ages 8-18 years undergoing cancer treatment. METHODS: An animated avatar-based tablet application was developed using state-of-the-art software. Key aspects of Pain Buddy include daily pain and symptom diaries completed by children, remote monitoring of symptoms by uploading patient’s data through internet to a cloud server, cognitive and behavioral skills training, interactive three-dimensional avatars that guide children through the program, and an incentive system to motivate engagement. Twelve children between the ages of 8 and 18 participated in a pilot study of Pain Buddy. RESULTS: Children were highly satisfied with the program. Pain and appetite disturbances were most frequently endorsed. Symptom trigger alerts to outside providers were largely related to clinically significant pain. Children infrequently used analgesics, and reported using some non-pharmacological pain management strategies. CONCLUSION: Pain Buddy appears to be a promising tool to improve pain and symptom management in children undergoing cancer treatment. Results from the current study will inform future improvements to Pain Buddy, in preparation for a randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of this innovative treatment.

Research abstracts