Gamifying pain management for kids

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Gamifying pain management for kids

The Pain Squad+ mobile app is a gamified engaging experience that delivers pain management support to adolescents with cancer.

Condition/Research Area




Increasing engagement with gamification

The Pain Squad Plus+ pain management smartphone app helps adolescents with cancer by bringing them pain management support the moment they are in pain. In a feasibility study, the app demonstrated positive results with users reporting they experienced significantly less intense pain and pain interfered less with activities of daily living.

Tactica collaborated with a talented research team at SickKids and University of Toronto to build on this initial research with a focus on improving the technology and enhancing user engagement. The new Pain Squad+ app allows teens to alleviate their pain symptoms by putting them in the role of superheroes, conducting daily missions, and performing pain management techniques.

Meeting patient needs through integrated knowledge translation and co-design

Researchers recruited real patients to help validate app features and creative concepts throughout the planning, design, and development process. Tactica created wireframes, prototypes, and character illustrations to help the co-design participants visualize the app and provide input to direct production. This effective integrated knowledge translation process ultimately ensured the app appealed to the target demographic and met their needs before scaling to a larger study.

Creating digital health apps that matter

Pain is a common symptom experienced by adolescents with cancer and often occurs outside of the hospital environment. Adolescents with cancer are in a unique developmental stage which may mean pain characteristics (for instance pain severity), the impact of pain, and pain treatment outcomes are different in adolescents compared to children and adults. This means that unique strategies are needed to address the problem of cancer pain in adolescents.

This app provides adolescents with pain management support the moment they are in pain, including when they are not in the hospital. The use of smartphone technology may facilitate rapid, in-the-moment pain support for this population, providing virtual self-management education and support.