What do we know already?
When it comes to the complex topic of pain, as podiatrists we understand the following:
- Pain is a complex and multifactorial phenomenon that can negatively impact a patient’s health-related quality of life.
- Pain outcome measures are commonly used to assess the severity of symptoms in children, adolescents, and adults.
- Traditionally, symptom progression has been recorded using the visual analog scale (VAS), Wong Baker scale, numeric rating scale, verbal rating scale, and faces pain scale-revised.
- These tools have been extensively validated as appropriate measures for assessing pain and are commonly used daily by podiatrists and other allied health professionals (AHPs).
Yet there are accompanying challenges
Evidence suggests there are limitations associated with the more traditional paper pain outcome measures that are still commonly used in various clinical settings.
Drawn face scales may result in incorrect recordings if a child experiences difficulty in distinguishing between the feeling of pain and the emotional state. Smiling faces can also result in overestimation of pain intensity.
These limitations are mostly based on paper pain scales being cumbersome, occasionally complex to use, and at risk of possible practitioner error.
Mobile health enters the picture
The continuous growth of mobile health (mHealth) offers unparalleled opportunities for podiatrists to address issues related to health systems and accessing accurate, reliable, and frequent health data. For example:
- The introduction of smart technology in paediatric and adult pain evaluation may offer opportunities to implement tailored pain assessments within different podiatric clinical settings.
- Recently, novel technologies have emerged that utilise smart devices to improve the existing traditional pain outcome measures. Yet few of these novel technologies have been examined for reliability and validity among children, adolescents, and adults, with most employing small sample sizes.
There is growing evidence to suggest that electronic pain outcome measures are interchangeable with existing traditional pain outcome measures, but more mHealth and eHealth research is needed to test the validity and reliability of the electronic VAS (eVAS) among children and adolescents.
By evaluating the validity of mHealth and eHealth interventions available to patients and clinicians, we can equip AHPs with a more effective tool to measure symptom progression.