Helping Cancer Children Manage Pain with Pain Squad

Helping Cancer Children Manage Pain with Pain Squad


Pain Squad is a electronic pain management tool that children use to record pain levels with an easy to use program and gamification elements. Kids and teens with cancer can keep track of  detailed reports of their pain.

Jennifer Stinson, a PhD at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada designed the application to measure the chronic pain for her clinical research area which focuses on management of pain and pain symptoms. During her PhD, she created one of the first electronic pain records using the Palm cell phone to help adolescents record pain using games in a heath-care environment.

She wanted something that would engage the kids in a fun way to help gather the information she needed. The old “paper based” recording method wasn’t working. The old diaries using a self-reporting method yield an 11 percent compliance. With Pain Squad, there is a jump to 90 percent.

The theme for Pain Squad is a crime-solving police squad. The kids fill out a pain report that helps the squad solve a mystery. The more reports submitted, the more the patient is rewarded with promotions up the ladder.

Stinson wanted a tool that patients could use to record their pain over a specific period of time.  She needed to know whether the pain was acute from headaches and surgeries or chronic pain that went on for days.  The idea for Pain Squad came from another game using police detective games. She realized they needed to make is a mystery-solving model, and used it to gamify pain levels for kids making it more kid-friendly so they would use it.

The challenges Stinson faced were designing the alarms that would alert the kids to record their pain. It is being tested in four pediatric clinics across Canada. She is developing a Pain Squad+ that will go beyond just recording pain, but will also suggest treatment. It the pain continues, Pain Squad+ will send a notification to the medical team. Stinson said that using gamifcation to solve the pain recording problem with children has greatly helped her practice.

Image credits: Wikimedia


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