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November 13, 2000

Pain assessment now fits in
doctors' Palm

By Alicia Lurry

Efforts to bring pain relief to sickle cell patients could be just a touch of a pen away, thanks to advances in current technology.

James Eckman and Allan Platt, staff members at the Georgia Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at Grady, have designed and tested a new, multidimensional pain assessment method that captures four dimensions of pain on a palmtop computer in less than one minute.

With help from private industry, they’ve developed the system into a nursing process solution that allows bedside entry of all the vital signs, intake-output, therapy given, pain assessment and patient satisfaction.

Platt, program coordinator at the Sickle Cell Center, presented and discussed the pain assessment model at a recent Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) conference in Chicago. Research for the pain assessment method is ongoing at Grady Hospital.

Here is how the technology works: Each pain episode is recorded on a Palm Pilot, a $150 handheld, touch-screen computer. With the use of an electronic pen, the device records pain location, radiation, associated symptoms, characteristics, setting, onset, duration, timing and other occurrences.

More than one pain site can be documented on one patient, and each site can be assessed multiple times, as can the severity of pain.

Using this technology, pain is assessed using four numerical analog scales: intensity, relief, sideeffects and mood. The patient ranks the importance of each variable on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being least important.

The patient is then presented with visual analog scales on the touch screen numbered 0 to 10, and is requested to select a level for each dimension. The Palm Pilot is programmed to time- and date-stamp the entry and store the numerical value of the mark.

At the nursing station, staff can then transfer their Palm data to a desktop computer. All information except the unit’s patient room list is removed from the Palm and stored in the personal computer immediately after the information is gathered. Summary reports and graphs can be viewed and/or printed in time and date order for the paper chart or at any time the information is needed in paper form.

Triad Technologies has also designed a pain assessment centralized database that is accessible to patients. In the future, this database will allow patient entry of pain assessment values, via the Internet, from a touchtone phone using interactive voice response (IVR) technology, and from handheld personal computers.

Sickle cell anemia is a blood disorder characterized by hard, sticky, sickle-shaped red blood cells. Because of the cell changes, a person can suffer from incredible pain (most commonly in the arms, legs and back), organ damage, infections, jaundice and anemia.

For more information, visit the Sickle Cell Information Center web site at, and, for more information about the Triad Technologies product.


Back to Emory Report Nov. 13, 2000