After a full day of radiation and chemotherapy, the very last thing a cancer patient wants to do is dwell on pain. Yet, in order for doctors to accurately assess a sufferer’s treatment, pain journals must be filled out in detail on a regular basis. To make the process more fun for kids and teens, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (AKA SickKids) collaborated with Canadian ad agency, Cundari to create a mobile app that turns the chore into a game.”Pain Squad” takes inspiration from the popular police dramas, Rookie Blue and Flashpoint to let children complete their diaries as part of a crime-fighting task force.
“Pain Squad” lets patients become active in their recovery by using a diverting touch-screen app to document their discomfort. Twice a day, players get a dispatch from headquarters to file a report. Each child begins as a “rookie”, and moves up the ranks as they unlock new levels. Announcements of their progress are made by members of the Flashpoint and Rookie Blue cast, congratulating their brave partners on their efforts. In addition to being a much- needed distraction, alerts built into the program let caregivers know if their patient’s pain is poorly managed.
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“We made it easier for kids and teens to track their pain symptoms by using technology that they’re familiar with. Keeping an iPhone pain diary is not only less work, but fun, too. Pain Squad is unique because while it helps patients keep track of their own symptoms, it also contributes to research by collecting data on cancer pain. Having solid information on the prevalence and severity of pain and the effectiveness of treatment will allow us to better manage pain and ultimately help improve the quality of life for our patients,” offers Dr. Jennifer Stinson, nurse practitioner and scientist at the Chronic Pain Program.
The app won first place among 300 entries at the Marketing Agencies Association Worldwide Globe Awards. “Pain Squad” is still a valuable part of SickKids’ care regiment, and will be tested at three other Canadian hospitals. By giving kids a positive purpose and tangible feedback, they are able to feel more in control of their own care and proud with each step of progress.
Images via Cundari and Wikicommons user Bill Branson