The app that helps identify pain in people with dementia

It can be hard to tell if someone who cannot communicate verbally is in pain. This is can be particularly true of patients with dementia. An app PainChek® aims to help identify those in pain using artificial intelligence, facial recognition and smartphone technology to automate pain assessments for patients in real time.

When someone struggles to communicate their pain in a way clear way to caregivers interventions and treatments can be given incorrectly and at the wrong points in time. This can lead to a much lower quality of life and outcome for patients.

The World Health Organization estimates around 50 million people globally have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. A 2012 study estimated up to 80% of people living in nursing homes with dementia regularly experience pain.

“Globally, the assessment of pain in people living with dementia is not strong,” says Shergill (Business development director at PainChek.) “Where pain goes undetected or untreated in people living with dementia, it can manifest in difficult-to-control behaviours, which subsequently people try to control with antipsychotic medication, which brings further risks.”

How does it work?

The app looks at 6 key indicators to complete a pain assessment; the face, the voice, movement, behaviour, activity and the body. The assessment which can be done on an Iphone or an android device can be completed in under three minutes.

The technology uses a smart phone camera on the phone, records a short video of the person’s face then analyses the images using facial recognition analytics. It automatically recognises and records facial muscle movements that indicate levels of pain.

The caregiver then uses the app to observe and record pain related behaviours such as movement and how pain is vocalised by the person. Finally, the app calculates an overall pain score and stores the result. This allows the caregiver to monitor the effect of medication and treatment over time.

PainChek® is a world-first pain assessment medical device – with regulatory clearance in Australia and Europe. The technology is currently being used in over 722 care homes globally. August 2020, it launched in the United Kingdom, where it has been used by around 1,000 patients so far.

The app use has grown rapidly in the residential care setting and they are now looking to expand its offering to make it accessible to the home care market. PainChek® aim to give a voice to patients who live in their own home. This includes older people and those with a disability, suffering multiple chronic conditions and in pain, as well as those with sensory, cognitive and mental health impairments.

We are looking forward to finding out more about how PainChek® is helping patients in the future and including patients with other types of communication challenges.

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