People who suffer chronic pain frequently report social exclusion and lack of understanding as factors confounding their already difficult situation. This often results in depression and loneliness.

PainNet allows a user to search for people with similar conditions, goals, and interests in the hope of forming a mutually supportive bond. The international database will enable sufferers of rare conditions to find similar individuals for sharing of information about coping mechanisms and new therapies.

The proof-of-concept user-matching engine was developed within the R language (using the Shiny web-based package), while the high-quality GUI was developed as a separate piece in proto.io.

Our biggest challenge was to develop a powerful algorithm for matching users in a short span of time. After experimenting with fuzzy techniques, we elected to settle for a simplified version for our first outing, reserving our remaining ideas for further development.

We achieved a functional primary feature, and a full set of page designs.

We found that it is important to maintain a narrow focus within tight time constraints.

Next, we plan to expand the capability of the user-matching engine and roll it into the proto.io app, to produce a fully-featured, professional-quality web and mobile application. This will include the ability to subscribe to filtered feeds from medical blog and news sites, and will support instant messaging between users who connect to one another.

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