DHU Radar

Digital Solution for Pain in Adolescents (Digital SPA)

Keywords: Digital Application, Implementation, Mental Health, Paediatrics, Pain Management
Digital solution and service (e.g. application/digital health portal/platform/AI based system/etc.)
Short description
The content of the intervention will be aligned with and based on the latest available evidence and guidance by the Cochrane Collaboration Reports on remotely delivered interventions for pediatric chronic pain, the WHO guidelines on the management of chronic pain in children, and the input provided by the users. Combining literature-informed evidence-based techniques (particularly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)) with user input is key to improve user’s acceptance and adherence with the intervention, which are some of the main problems digital health faces. Specifically, Digital SPA will build on a pain learning theory framework and align with ACT and the fear–avoidance model in its focus on exposure and psychological flexibility. Digital SPA will be focused on improving functioning by teaching pain coping skills, and will likely include skills such as relaxation and mindfulness, goal setting based on life values, sleep management, behavioral activation, self-management of negative thoughts and emotions (e.g., accepting them as part of life, learning to be defused with them), and communication skills. Digital SPA could also include the ability to track symptoms and set up reminders. Digital SPA is designed as a standalone intervention, that is, participants will not have the option to interact with a therapist, and all the elements are self-guided and independent on other interventions. To facilitate future dissemination, Digital SPA will be designed to be optimized for both Android and iOS, will have accessibility features (e.g., text to voice, color-blind display options, subtitles, and any other adaptations determined in the co-design), and be prepared to support multi-lingual content for a potential future expansion to other languages. An accompanying intervention website for parents is being created as well. It is based on the content and format of the adolescents’ intervention. In the parents’ website, parents will be guided through what their child is learning each week and provided with strategies to support them to learn the new skills. Additionally, a section on communication and self-care as caregivers will be provided. The website will be responsive, optimized to be accessed with a phone. This project began in 2022 and is being developed by a team of researchers and clinicians from the University of Málaga (UMA) and the Biomedical Institue of Málaga (IBIMA), other collaborating hospitals and international advisors. The principal investigator is Dr. Rocío de la Vega. The target group are children and adolescents with chronic pain and their parents. Children can access to a self-management intervention using a Smartphone app. Parents can access to a website with an intervention for parents.
No impact-related evidence is currently available
Children and adolescents with chronic pain are a vulnerable population who often lack the resources to manage their condition. Due to high personal (e.g., mental health, physical function), social and economic consequences, proper management in its early stages is key to reducing disability. Therefore, there is a clear need to improve children’s access to empirically validated treatments that can be self-administered and properly implemented. The aim of this project is to codevelop a digital intervention for pediatric chronic pain (Digital SPA) with end-users and to evaluate its effectiveness and implementation outcomes.
The idea has been formulated and/or research and experiments are underway to test a “proof of concept”
We are in phase 1) Focus groups with patients, parents and clinicians (n = 5-6 each) will inform about unmet pain care needs, and provide a starting point for codesigning the intervention.
Geographical scope
The app has the necessary infrastructure to be translated to other languages, making it suitable to be used in other countries.
There are currently 6 hospitals participating in the study. After the effectiveness phase is finished, the app will be made available for free in the App Store (for iPhone users) and Google Play (for Android users).
Submitted in other database or repository of digital health resources that is publicly available

Additional information

to clinicians / care practitioners
Other (please define below)
Low intensity self-administered psychological treatment that can be used in addition to regular medical care
to patients / citizens
Remote monitoring apps/health outcomes tracking
Digital tools to support health education (health literacy)/digital health literacy
Self-management/ICT supporting adherence to medication and care-plans
Primary target patient group (age)
Children (5-14), Youth and young adults (15-24)
Addressed prevention area(s)
Fitness and physical activity, Education, Mental health
Use case and care pathway positioning
Treatment, Disease monitoring, treatment compliance, self-management, Clinical trial data collection
Ready to be transferred to
Transferability has not been considered in a systematic way.
Plans for cross-border implementation
Have not been considered and will not be developed in the near future