Use of mobile health apps and wearable technology to assess changes and predict pain during treatment of acute pain in sickle cell disease: Feasibility study

Document Type


Publication Date



© 2019 Amanda Johnson, Fan Yang, Siddharth Gollarahalli, Tanvi Banerjee, Daniel Abrams, Jude Jonassaint, Charles Jonassaint, Nirmish Shah. Background: Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited red blood cell disorder affecting millions worldwide, and it results in many potential medical complications throughout the life course. The hallmark of SCD is pain. Many patients experience daily chronic pain as well as intermittent, unpredictable acute vaso-occlusive painful episodes called pain crises. These pain crises often require acute medical care through the day hospital or emergency department. Following presentation, a number of these patients are subsequently admitted with continued efforts of treatment focused on palliative pain control and hydration for management. Mitigating pain crises is challenging for both the patients and their providers, given the perceived unpredictability and subjective nature of pain. Objective: The objective of this study was to show the feasibility of using objective, physiologic measurements obtained from a wearable device during an acute pain crisis to predict patient-reported pain scores (in an app and to nursing staff) using machine learning techniques. Methods: For this feasibility study, we enrolled 27 adult patients presenting to the day hospital with acute pain. At the beginning of pain treatment, each participant was given a wearable device (Microsoft Band 2) that collected physiologic measurements. Pain scores from our mobile app, Technology Resources to Understand Pain Assessment in Patients with Pain, and those obtained by nursing staff were both used with wearable signals to complete time stamp matching and feature extraction and selection. Following this, we constructed regression and classification machine learning algorithms to build between-subject pain prediction models. Results: Patients were monitored for an average of 3.79 (SD 2.23) hours, with an average of 5826 (SD 2667) objective data values per patient. As expected, we found that pain scores and heart rate decreased for most patients during the course of their stay. Using the wearable sensor data and pain scores, we were able to create a regression model to predict subjective pain scores with a root mean square error of 1.430 and correlation between observations and predictions of 0.706. Furthermore, we verified the hypothesis that the regression model outperformed the classification model by comparing the performances of the support vector machines (SVM) and the SVM for regression. Conclusions: The Microsoft Band 2 allowed easy collection of objective, physiologic markers during an acute pain crisis in adults with SCD. Features can be extracted from these data signals and matched with pain scores. Machine learning models can then use these features to feasibly predict patient pain scores.