Conference Coverage

Use of smartphone app improves pain outcomes



– A smartphone app that included artificial intelligence elements was associated with improved pain outcomes and reduced hospital admissions in patients with advanced cancers.

Pain severity significantly decreased among patients randomized to use the app versus control patients who received only palliative care, researchers reported at the Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium.

The risk of pain-related hospital admissions was significantly lower for those who used the pain tracking app, called ePAL, though anxiety scores were higher in the app users, the investigators said, and no difference between arms was noted in quality of life or global symptom scores.

The ePAL app prompts patients three times per week to track their pain levels and, depending on the severity of pain, will use an algorithm to guide patients through their symptoms, or, in patients with persistent or worsening pain, connect them directly with the palliative care service for additional assessment.

The app also includes pain management tips, among other educational content, provides the ability to request pain prescription refills, and creates a summary of the patient’s pain condition for the provider, said Mihir M. Kamdar, MD, associate director of palliative care at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“The provider can actually start the visit with that information, instead of having to spend several minutes trying to recap what might or might not have happened since the last clinic visit,” Dr. Kamdar said.

The study included 112 English-speaking adult patients with stage IV solid cancers and moderate to severe pain who were being followed in a palliative care clinic. They were randomly assigned to receive the ePAL app plus standard of care or standard of care alone; 39 patients in the app group and 40 in the control arm completed the 8-week evaluation.

Pain severity, the primary study endpoint, decreased over time in the intervention group, from a composite Brief Pain Inventory score of 3.74 at enrollment to 2.99 at 8 weeks, while in the control group, the scores were 4.02 at enrollment and 4.05 at 8 weeks (P = .017 for intervention versus control), Dr. Kamdar reported.

Risk of pain-related hospital admissions was significantly lower in the intervention group, according to Dr. Kamdar. The per-patient risk of an inpatient admission was 0.071 and 0.232 for the intervention and controls groups, respectively, with a risk ratio of 0.31 (95% CI, 0.11-0.89; P = .018).

Anxiety was increased in the app users, as measured by the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale, with a significant difference between the app and control groups at 8 weeks (P = .015). However, the change was in a range considered mild and was not seen in patients who used the app more than two times per week.

Negative attitudes toward cancer pain treatment decreased significantly in the app group, as shown by a lower score on the Barriers Questionnaire II at 8 weeks (P = .042), Dr. Kamdar reported.

The app and study were supported by the McKesson Foundation’s Mobilizing for Health Initiative. Dr. Kamdar reported stock/ownership and consulting/advisory role disclosures related to Amorsa Therapeutics.

SOURCE: Kamdar MM et al. PallOnc 2018, Abstract 76.

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