Painless Journal aims to take the pain out of tracking chronic illness

21 Sep 2020

Laura Cosgrave, co-founder of Painless Journal. Image: Painless Journal

Our Start-up of the Week is Painless Journal, a mobile app to help people with chronic illnesses track their symptoms and activity.

During the summer, Dublin’s Dogpatch Labs hosted an accelerator programme called Patch, which sought out the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers who have the potential to create globally impactful companies, technology or research.

At this accelerator, one group of students spent time developing a mobile app called Painless Journal, which aims to help people with chronic illnesses improve the management of their condition with data collection and analysis.

It was co-founded by Laura Cosgrave, Nicky Pochinkov and Fiza Husain. Cosgrave, who is about to begin studying mathematical sciences at University College Cork, spoke to about her start-up’s technology and the market the team is targeting.

Tracking symptoms

“We are helping people with chronic illnesses such as arthritis, hypermobility spectrum disorder and Ehler-Danlos syndrome,” Cosgrave explained. “It is often useful for people with conditions such as these to track their symptoms, and other factors such as exercise or sleep.”

She noted that while there are existing apps targeting people with these conditions, some can be difficult to use and often may not be fit for purpose. According to Cosgrave, many people continue to track their symptoms with a pen and paper or text documents.

“This is time-consuming, disengaging and inefficient – data is inconsistent and can’t be analysed properly,” she said.

‘We want to improve data collection and analysis for people suffering from chronic illnesses worldwide to improve the management of their conditions’

With that in mind, the Painless Journal team is developing an app to help users track symptoms in a simple way. Users input details about their daily activity, pain and others symptoms. This can be customised based on each user’s condition, with notifications reminding users when something needs to be tracked.

Symptoms can be tracked through ratings, questions and notes. This symptom data can be viewed or edited in the app and trends over time can be highlighted with a graphing feature.

The Painless Journal app is currently in beta testing. It is available on both iOS and Android, with data stored in Google Cloud’s Firebase servers. In the future, the team wants to implement advanced data analysis, providing a deeper insight into the data that its app collects.

The goal

Cosgrave has a strong interest in mathematics and blogs about science and maths in her free time. She won an honourable mention at last year’s International Mathematical Olympiad and is set to represent Ireland again at this year’s event.

Her co-founders have experience in programming. Pochinkov is in his third year of theoretical physics in Trinity College Dublin and has done programming work for society events and a meteor detection project with the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. Husain, who is currently in her third year of computer science and engineering at IIIT Hyderabad in India, has contributed to a number of open-source projects and is currently undertaking a research project on autonomous systems.

Together, the team is hoping to combine app technology and data science to create a healthcare tool.

“Ultimately, we want to improve data collection and analysis for people suffering from chronic illnesses worldwide to improve the management of their conditions,” Cosgrave said. “This revolves around two core factors – making tracking as easy and engaging as possible, and providing useful insights through data analysis.”

“We’re currently beta-testing our first version of the app on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, and we hope to launch properly in October,” she said. “At the moment, our main focus is building a highly engaging, intuitive app that does what people with chronic illnesses need it to do, based on tester feedback.”

She added that the start-up is also currently looking at other areas where personal health data collection is important, such as medical research.

While taking part in Patch, Cosgrave said that she received valuable supports, networking opportunities and mentorship.

“It helps to have a community of like-minded people at a similar stage as you to share the experience with, as well as some who are further ahead and can give you guidance and mentorship.”

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic