Pain Management by Design

In the world of pain treatment, patients and doctors often struggle to speak a common language. Clarifying that conversation is a big part of the work at the UC Davis Center for Design in the Public Interest.

“Patients need better ways to express pain levels so they can be properly medicated. They also need help in avoiding overmedication and tapering off medications,” said Susan Verba, a design professor who leads the center. “The project is about making it easier for patients and doctors managing pain to communicate.”

Among the products the center has developed:

  • A comic book-style pain treatment folder for patients.
  • Cards patients can use to more accurately indicate the level and type of pain (sharp, throbbing, radiating) they are experiencing.
  • A card deck showing alternatives to opioids.
  • An opioid patient education video.
  • “Outpatient Radio,” a participatory community radio show on KKRN 88.5 FM in Round Mountain, California, focused on chronic pain.

“The more you scratch the surface of the pain and opioids, the more you see there is still so much to do,” Verba said.