Chronic pain sufferers have a new ally when it comes to answering the question: “On a scale of zero to 10, how much does it hurt?”
GeoPain, a mobile pain tracking app, launched to the public this week from MoxyTech, a University of Michigan startup. It gives users a 3-D image of the body to zero in on the pain — its location and intensity — and brings a new tool to precision health.
It’s a clinically proven solution for tracking, analyzing and communicating the details lost with existing pain assessment methods. It allows patients to quickly “paint” their pain on anatomically accurate 3-D models using a phone or tablet.
“It’s a more objective measurement of pain that is beyond the zero to 10 scale,” said Alexandre DaSilva, co-founder of MoxyTech and an associate professor and director of the Headache & Orofacial Pain Effort Laboratory at the School of Dentistry.
“We can dissect the pain with greater precision, in one patient or several, and across multiple body locations. Whether the patient has a migraine, fibromyalgia or dental pain, we can measure whether a particular medication or clinical procedure is effective for each localized or spread pain condition. GeoPain is a GPS for pain health care.”
The app could disrupt the way drug trials are conducted. Initial studies at U-M showed that GeoPain measures directly correlated with opioid activity in the brains of chronic pain patients. It also outperformed traditional measures in complexity and speed by precisely mapping and detecting significant regional changes in pain relief.
The free app is geared toward the patient, who can regularly record pain in between appointments for a comprehensive record that can be shared with the doctor and integrated with the hospital or pain clinic’s cloud systems and devices.
“Connected care to patients is a huge technological goal of ours, as is the exchange of pain information with proper permissions and controls,” DaSilva said. “Such integrated analytics at patient or population levels would allow us more efficient development and precise evaluation of therapies for pain that chronically affects 100 million adults in the U.S. alone.”
The app was created to track pain in patients from DaSilva’s brain research and clinical trials in migraine and chronic pain, many funded by the National Institutes of Health. Several of those U-M research studies with GeoPain will be presented at the 17th World Congress on Pain this week in Boston.
GeoPain goes beyond current pain diaries and tracking tools to offer patients greater control of their pain story. The 3-D bodies allow users to pinpoint the pain and its movement over time. Additional factors like symptoms, triggers and treatments provide greater context. And the results can be aggregated for the patient or population real-time, said Eric Maslowski, MoxyTech co-founder and chief technology officer.
“We expect it to revolutionize pain treatment,” Maslowski said. “Our technology complements existing scales and gives patients, clinicians and researchers the detail and clarity often missing from traditional tools.”
Maslowski said that the team wants to increase communication around chronic pain because it’s difficult to distill something that complex to a simple number. The app also helps doctors and patients communicate more precisely about the pain and the effect of medications.
The increased precision and decreased variability of the reporting of pain would yield multiple benefits to pharma. Clinical trials could result in a better understanding of the efficacy of a drug, while reducing both the number of patients and time to reach a conclusion.
Diversity is another important concept embraced by the team, as patients can choose male or female 3-D body representations. MoxyTech is also developing pediatric body models.
“It is mind-boggling the current limitations women and kids face in the clinic to accurately depict their pain. We want to break the mold — all pain matters to us,” DaSilva said.
GeoPain is already integrated into home-based brain modulation technologies for migraine and pain treatment, and is testing at several clinics including Chronic Pain Solutions in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Tiziano Marovino, a clinical research physical therapist and practitioner at the clinic, said “patients appreciate the ability to color in their pain pattern on the tablet. They are more aware of pain location, nature, intensity, duration and frequency. This appears to increase self-efficacy by providing a greater sense of control over their pain.”
MoxyTech licensed the technology from the university and then worked with the U-M Office of Technology Transfer to optimize the app for the business sector. The company plans to market the app’s data analytics to clinicians, health care systems and pharmaceutical companies for use in developing better treatments for pain.
“The MoxyTech solution represents a giant step forward with respect to reliability, accuracy and precision in measuring patient pain,” said Drew Bennett, an associate director at Tech Transfer. “The MoxyTech application is exciting because of its sophistication in tracking this challenging issue for patients and caregivers. We are excited to see the impact these tools can have on patient care.”
Lynn Johnson, professor of dentistry and clinical professor of information, said the app will encourage patients to be more active in their care.
“Instead of trying to recall pain during a visit with their physician, patients can record the intensity and location of their pain as it occurs. This has never been possible before,” Johnson said. “GeoPain is a model for all health care apps.”