Let’s face it, not all pain has a voice

1 March 2019
By Stephen Wiblin, Head of Clinical Strategy and Development


Technology has allowed us to personalise our whole lives. Taking selfies, getting your name printed on a mug or a t-shirt, getting your towels monogrammed – these times have often been dubbed the “Me Generation”. But there’s one company personalising something essential for the voiceless in aged care: their pain.

Australian healthcare innovator PainChek has invented an app to help aged care staff manage the pain of their residents. Together with Allity Aged Care and Ward Medication Management (Ward MM), PainChek use the latest facial recognition technology to deliver personalised pain management for aged care residents who are unable to talk or communicate their pain.

It works on a smart-phone and this makes it the world’s first “pain assessment” technology able to be used this way. It’s also a monitoring tool and is extremely flexible for aged care staff as they can take the technology to the resident instead of making them go to a dedicated room for assessment.

The software, using artificial intelligence, machine learning and facial recognition technology, detects the presence of “micro-expressions” via a brief video captured on a smart device. These tiny facial expressions indicate the presence of pain and along with other behaviour, such as vocal cues and movements, will calculate a “pain severity score”.

PainChek artificial intelligence and machine

Pain is very difficult to diagnose in people within aged care, especially for those who are unable to verbally communicate. Before now, a resident’s pain assessments were unavailable to other healthcare professionals in real time, therefore treatment could not be fast-tracked.

This often resulted in care staff trialing multiple pain medications over time to arrive at the right treatment, leading to unnecessary or long periods of pain.

“PainChek® assessments can be securely shared and used by multiple healthcare professionals to improve care. The outcomes from this collaboration will be transferable across a range of healthcare sectors to better manage pain,” said Mr. Daffas, CEO of PainChek.

Through their Thrive service, Ward MM will also match a resident’s medication to their DNA to create an ongoing personalised medication management plan.

Fiona Rhody-Nicoll, CEO of Ward MM says this service makes personalised pain management for people in aged care a reality.

“Ward MM Thrive already uses physiological and DNA data to optimise pain management for individual patients. Adding the functionality of PainChek allows our clinical pharmacist team to assess, share and respond to the presence of pain in real time. This collaboration is going to set a new benchmark in effective pain management for people living in aged care.”

In this new initiative, Allity caregivers will use PainChek to assess and document a resident’s pain and share the results with a clinical pharmacist’s team in real time.

Allity will roll the program out nationally across its 45 residential aged care homes during 2019. Up to 3,500 residents stand to benefit.


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