Just days after Apple announced the iPhone 5, WebMD has introduced an application for the popular smartphone to help people manage chronic pain.
Called WebMD Pain Coach, the free app allows people suffering from chronic back pain to track their symptoms and set goals on how to manage their conditions. They can also share data with physicians on their progress.
Introduced Sept. 17, the app helps people manage chronic back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, migraines, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia (a chronic disorder consisting of widespread pain, tenderness and muscle and connective tissue stiffness usually associated with fatigue, headaches and sleep disturbances). The app also sends tips from physicians to users' iPhones on how to manage the pain.
More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, a nonprofit organization that advises the government and private sector on how to make informed health decisions.
Pain Coach aids users in making health and wellness choices to manage their pain while still living their daily lives.
"WebMD recognized that many who suffer from chronic pain have more than one condition, which is why WebMD's Pain Coach uniquely enables tracking of multiple chronic pain conditions all within one app," Dr. Michael Smith, chief medical editor at WebMD, said in a statement. "With WebMD's Pain Coach, users can track and view symptoms, triggers, treatments and goals on a daily basis, further monitoring progression."
In addition, the app acts as a checklist for patients to refer to when they see their doctors and provides a way to help patients and physicians communicate, said Smith.
Pain Coach features a journal that allows users to gain awareness of their lifestyle patterns and learn about triggers that lead to pain. A journal entry would include the level of pain, symptoms such as stiffness and aching, as well as triggers like sitting too long or weather changes. The journal entry would also list treatments, such as stretching or acupuncture and medications taken.
Consumers can also track their lifestyle goals and share data with physicians. Users choose goals from a list reviewed by physicians. Goal categories include food, rest, exercise, mood and treatments.
Pain Coach also includes a library of content on pain management, including articles, videos, slide shows and quizzes organized under the topics Living Better with Chronic Pain, Pain Management Techniques, Treatment and Care for Chronic Pain and Understanding Chronic Pain.
Contextual ads in the app help patients manage chronic pain.
The number of people using mobile devices such as the iPhone to access health resources like WebMD's apps grew 125 percent in 2011 from the previous year, according to a report by digital market intelligence firm ComScore.
A recent WebMD survey revealed that 89 percent of respondents were willing to use a mobile pain diary on a smartphone app at least weekly and 70 percent would use an app with WebMD content that would help people manage and track pain.
For the WebMD mobile survey, 531 people participated in a survey on chronic pain from May to June 2011. The company conducted the survey through its mobile Web site as well as iPhone and Android apps.
In WebMD's survey of 131 physicians conducted from June 3 to June 11, 2012, in the Medscape Physician Connect Community, 92 percent of respondents preferred that patients had a way to track symptoms between trips to the doctor.
Meanwhile, 65 percent of the doctors believed that a mobile app would enable patients to track the intensity of their chronic pain and relay the information to their doctor during an exam.