Mobile phones fast, safe way for patients to report pain postoperatively


In a new Swedish study, mobile phones were found to provide a fast and safe method of reporting pain postoperatively in real time, according to an article published in Perspectives in Health Information Management. This is good news for the area of pain management, as pain assessment is a key factor in effectively treating postoperative pain and reducing the risk of developing chronic pain.

The pilot study was conducted between the spring of 2010 until January 2011 at a university hospital in Sweden. Two randomly selected groups of patients provided information about their pain for one week postoperatively after cholecystectomy and hysterectomy procedures. One group responded via cell phones, and the other, a control group, responded using paper-based questionnaires.

"In this method, data from the mobile phone are directly transferred to a database available at the hospital, which gives the patient more freedom because a measured value can be entered whenever the patient chooses or it is requested," the article's authors wrote. "The method also enables professionals to adjust pain treatment immediately after receiving data from the patient, thus also giving staff a more individualized concept of how the pain develops throughout the day."

Big differences between the number of pain measurement levels received from patients using the mobile phone system and from those using the paper questionnaires were recorded in the study. The assessed levels of pain were significantly higher from patients using the mobile phone method.

The authors of the article stated that "there is hardly any reason to suppose that the mobile phone group experienced a higher level of pain" but instead provided an explanation for the difference, arguing that it "could be that an electronic system may provide an anonymous environment that is perceived as safer than paper questionnaires" and therefore "patients may thus have a higher level of confidence in the privacy of the method, which encourages responses."

Based on their feedback, patients said the mobile phone technology was not time-consuming and they expressed their preference for mobile phones compared to answering the questionnaire. While the results were positive, the authors acknowledged that the sample size of their study was small (n = 37) and that further studies are needed before additional conclusions can be drawn.

According to a recent study by the Worker's Compensation Research Institute, many doctors still fail to follow treatment guidelines for following patients for whom they've prescribed opioids, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin. Perhaps a reminder system based on the use of mobile phones could help to turn around such a trend.

To learn more:
- check out Perspectives article