Pain is not the kind of thing that is universally understood. Everyone experiences pain differently, and tolerance levels vary greatly. What is found to be excruciating to one person may be simply unpleasant to someone else. This makes it particularly difficult for one individual to acutely diagnose the pain of another. Interpretation has made pain diagnosis an imprecise science for medical professionals, which can be extremely frustrating for the patients.
Is tech taking over?
There are now pain tracking apps offering patients different ways of assessing their pain symptoms. Instead of rating pain on a scale of 1 to 10, some apps use animations that change according to intensity.
The National Institute of Health has called for more objectivity in pain recognition in an attempt to lessen opioid prescriptions. The hope is that technology will be able to achieve what so many in the healthcare industry fail to do, feel the pain of another human being.
In an effort to advance cancer patient care, researcher at NYU’s Meyer College of Nursing, Janet Van Cleave, has come up with an Electronic Patient Visit Assessment for patients suffering from neck and head cancer. The system is basically a survey done on an iPad, where the patient can tap to indicate where their pain is, and respond to yes or no questions about their pain and even their quality of life. Seeing as neck and head cancer patients have trouble communicating verbally, doctors can gather better data from them when all they have to do is use a finger to tap the screen. But even this can be challenging. Van Cleave says, “Their hands shake when they’re pressing on the screen, so we’ve made it extra sensitive.”
If tech is to replace current pain assessment methods, it would need to be made extensively detailed, as culture, race, age, gender, and upbringing all play a role as to how different patients experience pain.