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The Effect of a Spanish Virtual Pain Coach for Older Adults: A Pilot Study


  • Disclosure information: The authors have no conflicts of interest or disclosures.

Deborah Dillon McDonald, PhD, University of Connecticut School of Nursing, 231 Glenbrook Road, Storrs, CT 06269-2026, USA. Tel: 860-486-3714; Fax: 860-486-0001; E-mail:


Objective.  To pilot test the effects of a virtual pain coach on ambulatory Spanish-speaking older adults with pain from osteoarthritis.

Methods.  A randomized, controlled design was used. Eighteen Spanish-speaking older adults were randomly assigned to the virtual pain coach and pain communication education group, or to the pain communication education-only group. All participants viewed the pain communication videotape. Participants in the virtual pain coach group practiced talking about their osteoarthritis pain with the virtual pain coach. Immediately after the respective intervention, participants had their ambulatory medical visit. Pain intensity and pain interference with activities were measured with the Brief Pain Inventory, and depressive symptoms were measured with the Beck Depression Inventory II at baseline and 1 month later.

Results.  No significant group difference emerged for pain intensity, pain interference with activities, or depressive symptoms 1 month later. More older adults in the virtual pain coach group reported a change from nonuse to use of opioids at 1 month, 50% vs 0% of the education only group, Fisher's exact test, P = 0.023.

Conclusions.  Preliminary data indicate that the Spanish virtual pain coach might assist Spanish-speaking older adults to talk with their practitioner about their osteoarthritis pain and obtain opioid treatment changes, but that pain and depressive symptoms continue unchanged 1 month later. Additional refinement and testing is required for the Spanish-speaking virtual pain coach to determine acceptability and outcomes for assisting Spanish-speaking older adults to communicate about their pain with their primary care practitioner.