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Papers of the Week

Papers: 26 Sep 2020 - 2 Oct 2020


Human Studies

2020 Sep 22


Systematic evaluation of commercially available pain management apps examining behavior change techniques.


Gamwell KL, Kollin SR, Gibler RC, Bedree H, Bieniak KH, Jagpal A, Tran ST, Hommel KA, Ramsey RR
Pain. 2020 Sep 22.
PMID: 33003110.


Mobile health (mHealth) apps have the potential to enhance pain management through the use of daily diaries, medication and appointment reminders, education, and facilitating communication between patients and providers. Although many pain management apps exist, the extent to which these apps utilize evidence-based behavior change techniques (BCTs) remains largely unknown, making it nearly impossible for providers to recommend apps with evidence-based strategies. The present study systematically evaluated commercially available pain management apps for evidence-based BCTs and app quality. Pain management apps were identified using the search terms "pain" and "pain management" in the App and Google Play Stores. Reviewed apps were specific to pain management, in English, for patients, and free. A total of 28 apps were coded using the taxonomy of BCTs. App quality was assessed using the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS). Apps included 2-15 BCTs (M=7.36) and 1-8 (M=4.21) pain management specific BCTs. Prompt intention formation, instruction, behavioral-health link, consequences, feedback, and self-monitoring were the most common BCTs used in the reviewed apps. App quality from the MARS ranged from 2.27-4.54 (M=3.65) out of a possible 5 with higher scores indicating better quality. PainScale followed by Migraine Buddy demonstrated the highest number of overall and pain management BCTs as well as good quality scores. Although existing apps should be assessed through RCTs and future apps should include capabilities for electronic medical record integration, current pain management apps often use evidence-based pain management BCTs.