Story Behind the Sketch – PainQuILT™

Meet PainQuILT™, a web- and mobile-based assessment tool for people living with chronic pain. PainQuILT™ provides a visual assessment of the pain experience so clinicians can provide better tailored care. Chitra Lalloo and James Henry are behind the innovative tool, and they’ve shared some early drawings with us from when PainQuILT™ was just a concept. Here’s the story behind their company!

PainQuILT mockup1The growth of PainQuILT™ into a business mirrored Chitra’s graduate career at McMaster University. The early version was developed by James and a previous graduate student of his, Émilie McMahon-Lacharité from the Biomedical Communications Program at The University of Toronto. This first version was designed for people suffering from central neuropathic pain after a stroke. These stroke patients often have cognitive impairments and difficulty with speech, so the decision was made to create a tool to allow them to pinpoint the specific types of pain they were experiencing (i.e. throbbing vs. shooting) and express it visually instead of through words. It wasn’t taken much further than the idea stage, however, so when Chitra started grad school in 2008, she began working with James to advance it.

During her PhD, Chitra began to think of PainQuILT™ as a potential business, and worked on expanding the project.

Pain_QuILT“I felt strongly that it was worth taking PainQuILT™ past the application for stroke patients exclusively,” explains Chitra. “So James and I framed it to be able to help patients with all types of chronic pain and of a wide range of ages and demographics.”

The key to making sure it could work this way was extensive testing. Chitra did over 100 interviews with patients, took the web application to a number of clinicians, and tested it with both children and adults and with accredited organizations like The Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Hamilton Health Sciences. This way, she could make sure that the iconography suited a wide range of patients, and that the app itself was useful to the practitioners that would be using it.

1654051_733410120042507_8054935127552400785_nIn 2012, Chitra and James got involved with Innovation Factory to take steps towards commercializing PainQuILT™. “I ended up pitching at one of Innovation Factory’s ‘Innovation Nights’ that year, which helped me get comfortable talking about the web app as a business idea and sharing it with a sizable crowd,” she says. “In 2013-2014, I then took the idea to their Synapse Life Science Competition and LiON’S LAIR competition, which gained our team significant training and exposure.” With the help of Innovation Factory, they were also able to secure funding through the Ontario Centres of Excellence and build a partnership with Fluid Media Inc, who developed the latest HTML5 version of PainQuILT.

Next for PainQuILT™ is a pilot project with the rheumatology department at The Hospital for Sick Children in the Spring of 2016.

Though PainQuILT™ is steadily moving forward, Chitra explains that the business development process was extremely iterative. “Entrepreneurs need to be flexible and embracing of change,” she says. “It’s also extremely important to talk to potential customers as much as possible to see if it’s something they will actually use!”

To learn more about PainQuILT™, visit