Computer-Assisted Help for Headache Patients – Tech to the Rescue!


Over 10 years ago, two headache specialists, Drs. Robert Cowan and Alan Rapoport, began discussing how to use a computer to provide an expert opinion directly to individual headache sufferers.

Five years later, the BonTriage Headache Deep Dive was born. Deep Dive is a free, web-based computer program that poses all the questions a highly trained headache specialist would ask; applies a rule-based engine to match the answers to internationally recognized diagnostic criteria; and then creates a written report a patient can bring to his/her doctor. This report summarizes your history and even provides a clinical impression. A headache diagnosis.

The primary intent of BonTriage is to save you and doctor the time required to record an accurate history and formulate an appropriate diagnosis. This frees both of you to use the office visit itself to discuss your headache management, and it allows time for the doctor to answer your questions.

Results to date have suggested patients appreciate and use the program, and in many cases the computer identifies diagnoses missed by an expert physician. After years of testing, results show that THE COMBINATION of a computer program and a good doctor is better than either one alone.

Working with colleagues skilled in machine learning and artificial intelligence, Cowan and Rapoport next developed a new app: the BonTriage Headache Compass. This innovative app is designed to help headache sufferers better track, treat and reduce their headache burden.

How does it work? It’s simple. For example, the Headache Compass can indicate that headache frequency is increasing and that a preventive medication should be started or a regular exercise program begun. It can indicate that an acute medication taken to stop a headache is not working quickly or effectively enough or whether a suspected trigger really does bring on your headaches.

When you first download the app, you are asked to answer questions related to your headache disorder, and over time you add more data. The Compass uses powerful computer analytics to make sense of the personalized data it collects, and the results of the analysis enable users to identify and avoid factors that predispose to headache, identify factors that improve headache, and provide feedback to assess whether management strategies are working. The more consistently data are entered, the better the app becomes at assisting in management.

To find the BonTriage Deep Headache Dive, go to and click on “start the assessment”. To find the iPhone app, visit BonTriage Headache Compass in the app store, or go to on your iPhone and click “download the app”. If you have questions, suggestions or comments, e-mail All data recorded in both instruments are HIPAA-protected and de-identified to protect your privacy.