Understanding Life with Chronic Pain

by Brian Mondry | Jun 2, 2016

To better understand the patient experience, we need to do a better job of understanding the emotional component of a patient's daily struggle with a serious health condition. We must, as best we can, seek to see the world through the patient's eyes, to understand them not as patients but as human beings who happen to have serious conditions that we can help them with. 

The ubiquity of the smartphone, and the connection people have with it, is making it easier to do this than ever before. By leveraging a smartphone’s camera and video features we can get another layer of data—visual data—and better empathize with a patient’s experience.

Case in point, we recently used our mobile survey app to get closer to the chronic pain experience through a pain diary study with rheumatoid arthritis patients. We applied a mobile-friendly version of a validated pain scale and encouraged survey participants to share pictures that captured how chronic pain impairs their quality of life along with captions so we could evaluate them in their proper context.

The combination of words and visuals enabled patients to vividly portray their true realities, ones that couldn't be captured through typical survey questions or interviews alone. Burdens such as an inability to conduct household chores due to pain are depicted through images of overflowing clothes hampers and dishwashers. The challenges of young mothers whose pain limits their ability to hold their babies in their arms or play with them. The emotional bonds some rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have with their pets. All of these images paint a more vivid picture of the chronic pain experience than is possible outside of having researchers actually embed themselves within a patient’s household for an extended time period. 

Kantar Health presented a poster on the findings of this study at ISPOR May 21-25 in Washington, DC. Visit our website to learn more about our presence at the event or to request a meeting.

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