Doctor and child using navigate pain

Patients ‘draw’ their pain for doctors and researchers using new app

Image credit: Aalborg University

Researchers at Aalborg University are launching an app, Navigate Pain, which allows patients to track their pain drawing on a simple app. Doctors can then study the patients’ symptoms on their computers.

Navigate Pain helps the patient register intensity, type and area of pain every day by drawing over images of the human body. Their doctor can access the data, view them as images or a video, or perform a more detailed analysis of how the pain has progressed.

This is the first evidence-based clinical system for visual pain communication between patients and doctors.

“If you’ve ever tried describing your symptoms to anyone then you know how difficult it is,” said Professor Shellie Boudreau, creator of Navigate Pain and associate professor in Aarlborg University’s department of health science and technology.

“Visualising the pain makes the process simpler and allows a trained professional to immediately recognise specific patterns of pain expression, saving time and avoiding misunderstandings.”

Originally, the platform was intended as a research tool, as there was no efficient method of mapping the progression of pain. In 2015, however, Professor Boudreau founded a company, Aglance Solutions, aimed at developing the clinical version of the app.

After being tested in more than 60 clinics, Navigate Pain is ready for commercial use.

“Professionals don’t have time to fiddle with a complicated interface,” said Professor Boudreau. “The technology needs to just work and fit seamlessly into the workflow of a clinic. Otherwise physiotherapists and doctors simply won’t use it.”

Navigate Pain user interface

Aalborg University

Image credit: Aalborg University

Navigate Pain also offers features for clinicians, such as access to business intelligence, comprehensive statistics and automatic documentation of cases and treatments. As the app was originally created for research purposes, it has powerful data mining capabilities.

Professor Boudreau hopes that as the commercial platform gains more users, the company will launch a version of the platform tailored to the academic community, which will give scientists access to anonymised data that the app collects around the world.

Already, the Aalborg University research team have published a paper using the data collected, revealing pain patterns in patients reporting knee pain. According to Professor Boudreau, Navigate Pain could become widely available for researchers studying patients with other complaints.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a broad mapping tool for the body that can visualise not only pain but all kinds of symptoms, helping patients and clinics and creating valuable research data in the process,” she said.

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