EDF's R&D department is involved in e-health, supporting the ANALGESIA Institute’s eDOL project. The project involves using digital technologies to help chronic pain sufferer, thus improving their day-to-day life. With €150,000 of financial support and through the scientific skills sponsorship initiative, the EDF Group Foundation will make a concrete contribution to the clinical studies involved in this nationwide project.
The ANALGESIA Institute – a unique innovation hub in France
Based in Clermont-Ferrand and exclusively dedicated to researching chronic pain, the ANALGESIA Institute is a research foundation that was created in 2016. Its aim is to support research and innovation into pain and enable its network of research teams and medical personnel to develop new therapeutic solutions to help chronic pain sufferers.
The ANALGESIA project was created for two reasons: despite the huge numbers of people affected (see key figures below), chronic pain is not a priority for medical research. Medicines, the only solutions available, do not provide all patients with relief.
Chronic pain – a few figures:
1. In France, one in five adults suffer from chronic pain – some 12 million people.
2. Two in three patients do not think that their pain is sufficiently well managed.
3. One in three patients have diminished quality-of-life.
4. 60% of people suffering from chronic pain are less able to work.
5. One in five patients lose their job because of this pain.
6. One in two patients are off work for more than four months per year.
Chronic pain: a public health concern
Chronic pain is a major source of disability for millions of patients in France and throughout the world. It affects people's everyday quality-of-life, resulting in numerous symptoms, including anxiety, sleep disorders, depression and cognitive difficulties. This type of pain can affect people of all ages, and has significant socio-economic consequences. More than 88 million working days are thought to be lost every year in France because of pain.
"Pain is often considered just a symptom of numerous diseases, but when it is chronic, it is a disease in itself. It affects one in five adults in Europe, on average. With an arsenal of dated and insufficient therapeutics, there is a major medical need to address this concern".
Professor Alain Eschalier, president of the ANALGESIA Institute – University of Clermont Auvergne
The eDOL project sets out to better understand pain and patients so as to optimise their treatments and how they are looked after
As part of the eDOL project, a mobile application for chronic pain sufferers has been developed, together with a website for medical personnel and a major database. Its success is contingent on researchers being able to use smart ways to process big data. Particularly large quantities of data are required since eventually the project is aiming to include an e-cohort of several thousand patients.
To better tackle pain, which can manifest in numerous ways and be experienced very differently, researchers need to gather very large quantities of data. They have therefore launched the eDOL project for monitoring patients "in real life". The eDOL application will become an everyday companion for chronic pain sufferers.As Professor Alain Eschalier, president of the ANALGESIA Institute, explains:
"Eventually, patients will get customised advice and will get to play a role in their own treatment so they can more effectively manage their pain and improve their quality-of-life in the long term. And medical personnel will be able to use the application to better understand the therapeutic response of their patients so they can improve the quality of their healthcare delivery system".
eDOL – what is it?
By gathering and analysing data, the eDOL project sets out to better understand pain so as to improve patients' quality-of-life and provide them with more effective treatment, the ultimate aim being to enable them to resume a social and professional life and even engage in a physical activity again.
The contribution from EDF's R&D researchers: big data processing
When the ANALGESIA Institute approached the EDF Group Foundation for support with its project, it was directed to EDF's R&D department and its experts in big data processing. Data scientists working for EDF's R&D department have developed techniques for analysing big data so they can, for example, track energy production, distribution and consumption systems in real time so as to balance supply and demand. The ANALGESIA Institute specialises in health problems, but would like support from experts in processing the massive quantities of data that will be generated by the e-cohort of patients. With the help of the eDOL application, the information gathered will fall into several categories, including subjective data provided by the patients themselves about their perceptions of their pain, and objective data provided by sensors assessing their ability to move, the quality of their sleep, etc.
In total, huge quantities of heterogeneous data will need to be analysed: a challenge for the data scientists asked to work with pain specialists on developing algorithms for extracting useful information*. R&D is not only helping with data processing. Indeed, EDF's R&D department works with all business lines across the Group and has an extremely wide array of expertise. In particular, it has a team of sociologists who will be able to help the ANALGESIA Institute to design questionnaires for patients.
* The data will be processed in partnership with a CNRS Clermont-Ferrand team from the Limos laboratory – a laboratory which reports to the CNRS – and the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
"Processing big data is an area in which we have been working for a long time – for the industrial processes that are part of our production facilities and in managing our relationships with clients. The ANALGESIA Institute was very keen for our R&D experts – who have already acquired expertise in big data – to help them".
Jean-Paul Chabard, Scientific Director of EDF's R&D department.
Version 1 of the eDOL application is available and the first clinical studies began in February 2019, designed to assess its acceptability among a panel of 300 patients. They were monitored over a six-month period by medical personnel from 13 centres, all experts in chronic pain, and members of the ANALGESIA Institute's network. The next stage will be to produce version 2, and then to conduct a study involving a panel of more than a thousand patients to measure the therapeutic impact of the tool.
“Eventually”, says Professor Alain Eschalier, “we want this mobile application to be covered by Social Security (by 2022), so that as many people as possible can use it, outside of our specialist centres".