Design Thinking Pain Management: Tools to improve human-centered communication between patients and providers

PI: David Pickham


This proposed research explores the role of design thinking to improve pain management for patients and providers. Specifically, using a design thinking approach, we aim to transform pain management from a unidimensional construct measured on traditional pain scales, to a social transaction between patients and caregivers, through recognizing the behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental aspects of pain. To do so, we propose a two-phase study which involves first developing a pain assessment intervention in the form of an electronic game that includes five primary attributes - social interaction, cognitive distraction, physical interaction, therapeutic pain relief, and data capture/communication. We aim to test the novel assessment strategy in patients undergoing surgery at Stanford Health Care through an observation-based behavioral analysis. The study will compare the efficacy of the gaming intervention with the standard Visual Analog Scale for pain assessment, by measuring the degree of communication between patient and provider, and the ability for clinicians to accurately assess medication-dosing requirements for therapeutic relief. The proposed work impacts design thinking research through studying the use of technology to (1) solve a multidimensional problem involving complex thoughts and sensory features in individual patients; (2) improve communication and healthcare team performance; and (3) influence behavior change in situations requiring shared medical decision-making between patients and providers.