With digital device usage the norm in the millennial generation, recent research from Curtin University shows that digital strategies could provide an accessible intervention to help transform health service delivery and ensure quality of care for young people with chronic health conditions such as persistent musculoskeletal pain.
Persistent musculoskeletal pain affects about 1 in 4 young people. Common conditions associated with persistent musculoskeletal pain include: arthritis, fibromyalgia, low back pain, neck pain and widespread muscle and joint pain.
Research led by Professor Helen Slater and Professor Andrew Briggs at Curtin University Perth, examined the evidence for the use of mobile health (mHealth) technologies to support young people managing chronic health conditions such as persistent musculoskeletal pain.
They found that young Australians with persistent musculoskeletal pain want access to digital health solutions to support their self-care. More specifically, solutions that are oriented to their needs, are readily accessible, reliable and free.
“Recognising and treating persistent pain in young people is important, because persistent pain can significantly impact every aspect of young lives, particularly young people’s mental health and their capacity to work, study and socialise,” says Professor Slater (pictured).
“Digital health solutions are a natural fit for young people, who have their mobile phones with them all the time. The use of mhealth to support self-care of chronic health conditions is supported by the evidence, yet most of our health services are still delivered using traditional face to face care models.
“This means that many young people have trouble accessing the services they need and knowing what is reliable information. This creates care disparities, especially for young people living in rural and remote areas.
“mHealth can provide an efficient, scalable and sustainable solution to empower young people to better manage their pain. mHealth is not a standalone solution; we see it complementing current health services, ensuring that young people’s preferences are heard and their specific needs are met.”
Professor Slater and colleagues are now testing the use of mHealth app iCANCOPE with pain, developed by researchers in Canada. “The plan is to test and adapt this mHealth app for use by young Australians.
The Australian Government is going digital with the MyHealthRecord, with one created for every Australian by the end of 2018. This single source of health information could benefit people with complex pain issues. People can opt-out during a three-month period, ending on 15 October 2018.