Abstract Title | Evaluating the Utility of the Pain Education e-Tool: A Mixed-Methods Study with Medical Students and Educators


  1. Pierre-Paul Tellier
  2. Emmanuelle Belanger
  3. Charo Rodriguez
  4. Nancy Posel
  5. Mark A. Ware




Department of Family Medicine , McGill University, Montreal
Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit, Montreal
McGill Molson Medical Informatics, Montreal



Pain management is not well understood by practicing clinicians. 

Patients, medical students, and educators have identified a lack of pain education in the training of undergraduate medical students (Tellier et al., in press).

The pain education e-tool (PEET) was developed to address this gap.

The evaluated PEET: 

Two virtual patient cases about chronic non-cancer pain and acute pain on Flash platform

Interactive features to promote self-learning

A comprehensive resource library

In English

Research Question: 

What are the views of medical students and pain educators about the PEET as an electronic device to improve pain assessment and management learning in Canadian medical schools? 

Summary of Work

Design: Mixed-methods exploratory study

Methods of data gathering: 

Survey questionnaire with close and open-ended questions, completed by 80 first-year medical students (46% of the class)

2 focus groups with 10 medical students each

9 interviews with educators from across Canada

Methods of data analysis: 

Descriptive statistics of survey responses

Thematic analysis of the focus groups and individual interviews



Notcutt W., Gibbs G. (2010). Inadequate pain management: Myth, stigma and professional fear. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 86(1018), 453–458.

Tellier, P.-P., Belanger E., Rodriguez, C., Ware, M., & Posel, N. (in press). Improving undergraduate medical education about pain assessment and management: A qualitative descriptive study of stakeholders’ perceptions. Pain Research and Management.

Watt-Watson J., McGillion M., Hunter J., Choiniere M., Clark A.J., Dewar A., et al. (2009). A survey of prelicensure pain curricula in health science faculties in Canadian universities. Pain Research and Management, 14(6), 439–444.


Summary of Results

Survey responses:

The learning objectives were met after using the PEET:

85% of students reported understanding the issues that chronic pain patients have to deal with

86 % of students agreed that they could use a patient-centered approach to obtain a patient history about pain

Feedback about the PEET:

84% of students felt that the chronic case was true to life

78% of students thought that the chronic case was too long

71% of students would like to use similar web-based methods to learn about other medical issues


Convergent themes from qualitative data:

An innovative and enjoyable method of learning:

“Please make this kind of web-based tutorial a standard method of teaching in medical school. it is extremely unique, innovative, interesting, and is a much more enjoyable way of studying than to read lectures and endless notes” (Student, open-ended question).

Modeling excellent communication and understanding of issues involved in pain management:

“The physician was asking all the right questions, was being appropriately empathetic, and sympathetic to the patient. I just thought it was really the best-case scenario of how you would want these interactions to go” (Educator 4)

The timing of the PEET in the curriculum

“I felt it was hard to relate without any clinical exposure, to everything that went on the scenario. I had an idea that we would look like that but we couldn’t really relate to anything cause we haven’t been to the clinic yet” (Student, Focus Group 1).

Technical problems

“It’s just that it gets stuck. That’s one of the problems. You have to start over once you answer the questions. I’m talking more about the format” (Educator 8).

PEET could be more succinct

“It could be a little more succinct. I think the goal would be to optimize and streamline and make everything as economical in terms of information as possible” (Educator 9).


There was unanimous support for the PEET as an innovative and comprehensive e-tool to integrate pain education in undergraduate medical curricula.

The involvement of medical students and educators in the improvement of the PEET contributes to its acceptability and usability; their feedback has been integrated into the latest version of the PEET which is in French and English and on the Decision Simulation platform.

The next steps of this research project include:

Evaluating the impact of the tool on students’ knowledge and skills

Disseminating the PEET

Take-home Messages

This utility study involved end users in the preliminary assessment of the PEET, demonstrating the acceptability of virtual patient cases to teach undergraduate students about pain management.


 Research sponsored by an unrestricted, educational grant courtesy of Purdue Pharma.




DecisionSim™ is made available to McGill University, Faculty of Medicine through an unrestricted educational grant courtesy of Decision Simulation.

Summary of Work
Summary of Results

Additional themes:

A longitudinal perspective on pain management:

“As medical students, we rarely see individual patients for follow-up, the chronic case gave us some insight into what follow-up appointments may constitute” (Student, open-ended question).

Relevant choices of clinical cases 

“They were well chosen cases. There was good content in them. […] They’re very similar to the cases that we use already with the family medicine residents” (Educator 5).

Comprehensive resource for learning about pain

“The pain assessment tools are there and you have a variety of other tools there for students to have a look at. I mean it seems to me to be overall very comprehensive” (Educator 4).

Need to address the context of the consultation 

“I guess the one thought I had as I watched that, or as I went through it, is my goodness how does he have so much time to ask all these wonderful questions” (Educator 3)

Take-home Messages
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