Improving migraine treatment – with an app
Migraine patients can toss away their headache diaries and pull out their smartphones to start tracking headaches. The app offers physicians an important tool in prescribing the correct medications.
“Headache patients often lose track of their disease. When they have a migraine, they are very sick, but otherwise they feel fine,” says Erling Tronvik of the Department of Neuroscience at NTNU. “With this app, patients can record a headache when it starts, and plot their use of migraine medications and regular pain killers.”
- Related content: Botox treats suicide headaches
Paper diaries inconvenient
As a postdoctoral researcher at NTNU and a physician at St. Olavs Hospital, Tronvik is able to study headaches while also treating patients in the clinic. Tronvik and his colleagues got the idea for the app when struggling to find good tools to document their patients’ illness over time.
“Until now, we’ve used migraine diaries on paper, but experience tells us that a lot of patients find this somewhat inconvenient,” Tronvik says. “You don’t always have your diary on hand, so it can be hard to remember to write down attacks. But you always have your phone around, and noting a headache only takes a few keystrokes.”
The app also groups recorded data and gives a graphic representation of how your headache changes over time.
Help with prescribing the right drugs
After prescribing a preventative migraine medication to a patient, doctors need to track how the medication affects their symptoms. The headache app helps doctors prescribe the right medications for their patients, and prevents patients from continuing to take drugs that don’t work.
“The incorrect use of pain killers can also cause a medication-induced headache and make symptoms worse,” Tronvik explains. “By tracking changes in headaches over time and recording painkiller use, it’s easier for us to see if the headache is caused by overuse of drugs.”
- Related content: When headache is the answer, finding the right questions
A great opportunity
NTNU Technology Transfer AS (TTO) has helped the headache experts develop their idea.
“We saw a great opportunity to use smartphone technology in a way that benefits the public heath service,” says project leader Jørgen Nordahl of TTO. “The fact that the initiative is coming directly from the academic groups that are researching and treating patients at NTNU and St. Olavs Hospital makes the app unique, and ensures its quality.”
First Norway, then the world
The app will initially be released for patients in Norway, but headache experts in other countries have also shown great interest in the app.
“We hope that we will have an opportunity to continue developing the app, including translating it into several different languages and developing a function that allows doctors to put in the correct headache diagnosis,” says Tronvik.
The app (currently only in Norwegian) can be found here, or by searching for “Hodepinedagboka” in the app store.