Design of a Handheld Electronic Pain, Treatment and Activity Diary

Users approved of a prototype handheld electronic diary (HED) that allows patients to monitor chronic pain symptoms and physical activity data.

To effectively manage noncancer chronic pain (NCCP), patients must regularly monitor and record their pain symptoms. There is evidence that patients prefer HEDs rather than paper-based methods or on-line tools. HEDs can monitor hourly changes in pain symptoms.

This article reports on the development of a handheld electronic pain/treatment/activity diary (EPTAD). The diary allows patients to record their lowest, highest and average pain intensity every two to four waking hours. Patients can also keep track of their physical activity; increased physical activity indicates effective pain management. Researchers developed a prototype based on information gathered in patient focus groups.

Four individuals suffering NCCP tested the prototype using a handheld device with a Windows Mobile operating system. The designers customized the software according to each patient’s symptoms. Prior to the tests, participants received training in how to use the devices.

Key Findings:

  • Users agreed that the device was user-friendly.
  • Some users struggled with selection boxes that required tapping a part of the display.
  • Field-testing will determine whether patients use the EPTAD to record pain symptoms every two to four hours.

This article reports on the development of a prototype EPTAD, a diary that allows patients suffering NCCP to record their symptoms and physical activity levels every two to four hours. Primary care physicians and pain experts can use the device to track the effectiveness of recommended treatments. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the prototype through Project HealthDesign.