New App Uses 3D, Animations to Track Chronic Pain

Jared Kaltwasser
SEPTEMBER 28, 2018
geopain michigan,smartphone chronic pain,digital chronic pain,hca news
University of Michigan startup MoxyTech. From left: Jamie Cope, vice president of development, Eric Maslowski, MoxyTech co-founder and chief technology officer, and Dr. Alexandre DaSilva, co-founder of MoxyTech and an associate professor and director of the Headache & Orofacial Pain Effort Laboratory at the U-M School of Dentistry. Image credit: Daryl Marshke, Michigan Photography

Chronic pain is complex and can occur at any time, but the standard methods of tracking and rating pain are surprisingly simple and static.

Now, a new startup is aiming to change that by leveraging the power and portability of smartphones.

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MoxyTech, a startup spun out of the University of Michigan, has launched an app called GeoPain, which allows users to track the frequency and severity of pain while also mapping it on a 3D illustration of their body.

“For the patient, this translates into a comprehensive visual record of their pain journey (how it’s [changing], how effective specific treatments have been, etc.),” said Eric Maslowski, MoxyTech’s co-founder. “This helps them communicate to their care provider(s) in a consistent and complete way.”

One feature of the app makes it possible for patients to play back an animation, visually elucidating how their pain changes over time.

“Being able to play back an animation showing the pain reducing/increasing over time, or looking at a report that shows when they took medication or were exposed to a particular trigger (e.g., poor sleep, wine) and how their pain changed after that, is a useful tool for figuring out the best path forward, either as an individual or as part of a care team,” he said.

The app can be used for chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia or dental pain, but it can also track acute pain for when a patient wants to track their progress in rehabilitation after an injury, Maslowski said.

“However, chronic pain can be particularly tricky to diagnose and treat because the pain doesn't always relate to damage in tissue/bone,” he said. “So, it becomes more important to track how the pain shifts and evolves over time.”

That’s one reason why the founders argue a high-definition method of tracking pain is so much better than a traditional numerical score. Maslowski also argued that this more high-tech approach helps eliminate user error or bias.

“For example, it allows patients to directly translate what they are feeling onto a 3D body and into thousands of discrete numbers instead of just one,” he said. “Among other things, this helps reduce filtering and bias from patients prioritizing their pain based on the doctor they are seeing or which pain is more severe at the moment.”

For clinicians, the app also enables more informed decision making.

“Similar to other analytical tools, the more information you have, the better you can identify patterns in the data, even to the point of providing predictions,” he said.

Alexandre DaSilva, D.D.S, DMed.Sc., co-founder of MoxyTech and an associate professor and director of the Headache and Orofacial Pain Effort Laboratory at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, said the program has been clinically verified.

DaSilva noted that GeoPain’s measures, “highly correlated in a neuroimaging study with opioid activity in the brains of chronic pain patients scanned — the more traditional and simplistic zero to 10 pain scale (NRS) failed to show any correlation.”

In addition to use by patients and physicians, the free app will also be made available to pharmaceutical companies, who can use the software to track patients in clinical trials.

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