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Pain Management Apps Work Better When Patients Are Engaged

The mobile app revolution has finally made it to the pain management arena. Healthcare facilities around the world are working with app developers to create mobile apps that patients can download in order to help them manage their pain and better interact with their doctors. Key to developing such an app is finding a way to make it engaging.

A recent study conducted by Toronto General Hospital indicates that patients are more likely to use a pain management app long-term when the app fully engages them. Study data indicates that app developers should not focus exclusively on the clinical benefits of an app to the exclusion of engagement, or they risk patients being uninterested in downloading and using what they produce.

In simple English, people do not use apps they don’t find engaging. They will download them, use them once or twice, then delete them and move on. On the other hand, keeping patients engaged gives them a reason to keep using an app.

Engagement Is a Simple Principle

Engagement is a simple principle in theory. No matter what you might be trying to accomplish, the concept of engagement suggests getting people involved. Restaurants do it by giving their customers menus and having servers discuss various options, like the day’s specials. Gyms and fitness clubs get customers engaged by pairing them with trainers who help them develop individualized workout plans.

Unfortunately, the healthcare sector has a history of non-engagement. For decades, we have stuck with a model in which clinicians have all the answers and patients are expected to do what they are told without question. This is not engagement; it is dictation.

Engaging patients in a healthcare setting means making them feel like they are active participants in their own care. It is critical to the success of long-term pain management. Why? Because engaged patients are more likely to work with their doctors to find practical solutions for managing their pain.

Recording, Reporting, and Discussing

If you were to seek out chronic pain management at Lone Star Pain Medicine, a Weatherford, Texas pain management clinic, you would develop a relationship with your doctor through regular visits. During those visits, you would report how you had been feeling since your last visit. Perhaps you would have recorded the pain medications you had been using. You definitely would discuss your progress with the doctor.

The results of the Toronto study suggest that mobile apps encouraging the same three things are more successful. An app that encourages patients to record how they use medications and other therapies motivates them to participate. Being able to use an app to report daily pain levels gives them an outlet.

Of course, any opportunity to discuss chronic pain with a doctor is helpful. The benefit of a mobile app is that it facilitates patient-doctor discussions without either one having to set aside extra time to meet at the office.

Mobile Engagement in the Future

Studies like the one done at Toronto General are important because mobile app use in the healthcare field is increasing. Between new technology and the impact coronavirus has had on telehealth, it seems only reasonable that mobile medicine will be a big part of healthcare moving forward. If it is going to work, mobile engagement must be improved.

It could be that pain management moves almost entirely into the mobile realm at some point. If that is the case, app developers will play a huge role in determining how effectively doctors and their patients manage chronic pain. Their success or failure may ultimately hinge on how well patients are engaged.

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