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Chronic Pain Management with Chatbot

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Chronic pain continues to be a prevailing health challenge in Australia, driving individuals to seek medical care. With no definitive cure available for most chronic pain conditions, managing this complex and costly health issue demands innovative solutions.

A team of researchers from CSIRO, RECOVER Injury Research Centre, the Tess Cramond Pain and Research Centre, and the Queensland Interdisciplinary Paediatric Pain Service collaborated to explore the potential of therapeutic chatbots in improving communication between people suffering from chronic pain and healthcare professionals.

Their creation, Dolores, is revolutionising the way patients report pain data and receive personalised education, offering hope for enhanced pain management outcomes.

An Innovative Solution

Dolores, the therapeutic chatbot, represents a technological leap forward compared to traditional language models that power chatbots like ChatGPT. Unlike its counterparts, Dolores operates from a knowledge base and conversation flow built by occupational, speech, and physio therapists, derived from diverse experiences with clients of different ages. This unique approach ensures that the chatbot’s responses are tailored to meet the specific needs of users, enhancing the overall quality of interactions.

Pain History Interview

One of the pivotal roles Dolores fulfils is administering a “pain history interview.” Through this process, the chatbot poses targeted questions about the user’s pain experience. These inquiries cover aspects like the onset, location, and duration of pain, as well as the sensations, emotions, and impact on daily life.

Dolores also delves into the user’s understanding of pain and perceptions of different treatment options. The chatbot’s ability to receive responses through talking, typing, or drawing empowers users to express their pain in a manner they find most comfortable and comprehensive.

Interpreting Pain through Drawings

Dolores’s unique feature lies in its capacity to interpret colours used in drawings, though it cannot yet discern the drawing itself. Research has shown that red and black are commonly utilised in “painting pain,” and Dolores acknowledges these colours when soliciting more information about a doodle. The next version of Dolores aims to incorporate sketch recognition technology, which will grant the chatbot a deeper understanding of the drawings, providing extended engagement with clients.

Positive Reception and Future Prospects

Dolores has garnered positive feedback from various cohorts of patients, cutting across different age groups. The chatbot’s user-friendly interface and personalised approach have been particularly well-received. Building on this success, the research team plans to integrate Dolores into the broader chronic pain intervention platform, Pain ROADMAP, expanding its reach and impact.

Catering to Diverse Needs

The significance of Dolores becomes even more pronounced when considering its potential impact on clients and communities with distinct languages and communication challenges. Often, children and individuals with language disorders experience higher rates of chronic pain but face difficulties in effectively communicating their pain experiences. Dolores’s adaptability to respond to children with short, age-appropriate answers and gradually increasing complexity with the user’s age is a critical step forward in bridging the communication gap between patients and healthcare professionals.

Enhanced Communication for Effective Pain Management

By facilitating more comprehensive pain reporting and offering tailored education, Dolores serves as a powerful tool to enhance communication between users and healthcare professionals. The chatbot’s ability to provide clinicians with insights into the symbols of pain through drawings further strengthens the patient-provider relationship.

With Dolores, healthcare professionals can gain valuable insights into the unique pain experiences of their patients, enabling them to devise more effective and personalised pain management strategies.


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