iPhone Game Tracks Cancer Patient Pain

Toronto hospital turns to Cundari to build Pain Squad app

The challenge: getting kids undergoing cancer treatment—exhausted from chemo and radiation therapy—to keep detailed logs of their pain. The solution: disguising the chore with a crime-fighting iPhone game.

Last month, the Hospital for Sick Children, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto, began testing an app created pro bono by the Toronto agency Cundari to motivate young cancer patients to keep “pain journals,” which can give caregivers a clearer picture of a patient’s level of discomfort and reactions to medications.

In the game, called Pain Squad, kids play rookies on a special police force and climb the ranks all the way to police chief by answering questions about their pain. The villain? Pain, of course. Characters from popular TV cop shows offer encouragement via in-app videos.

“Our spin made it a mission for [the kids],” said Cundari CCO Brent Choi. Added hospital researcher Jennifer Stinson: “Kids love this technology. Most have a cellphone or some sort of [tablet]. They are so familiar with it they don’t need any training.”

The app isn’t widely available yet, but more testing is planned. Stinson’s team is also working to develop an algorithm that will alert doctors when a patient’s entries indicate a severe level of pain.

Stinson said the game will eventually become available for free in the U.S. via the Apple App Store.