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by Sofia Villegas
28 September 2023
Scottish care homes to host trial of AI pain assessment tool

PainChek may give a voice to the voiceless | PainChek

Scottish care homes to host trial of AI pain assessment tool

Scotland’s care regulator has announced PainChek will trial its AI pain assessment tool across 15 Scottish care homes

Introduced in 2016 by an Australian start-up, the app looks to improve the quality of life of those with cognitive difficulties, such as people diagnosed with dementia

Unlike humans, the tool can objectively detect pain by analysing facial micro-expressions. 

Talking to healthcare.scot, a spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: “We welcome the use of innovation and technology to help support people to experience the best possible care. 

“This device should enable more appropriate use of medication and improved quality of life for care home residents.” 

Findings from the initial pilot study revealed more than a 40 per cent decrease in falls over six months amongst participants. Other results included an increase in the amount of completed pain assessments as well as a better use and decrease in prescriptions of pain medication. 

The second phase aims to gather more data on the tool’s effect on pain assessment and quality of care. 

According to the governmental agency, the tests will have different settings, service types, user groups and locations.  

Also speaking to healthcare.scot, Tandeep Gill, PainChek’s Head of Business Development UK&I, said: “Using PainChek, carers can record meaningful pain data, allowing them to address the shortfalls in pain documentation and treat pain according to evidence-based pain management practices, as well as use the data to plan person-centred, long-term care. 

“In addition, relatives can rest assured that their loved one is comfortable, and their pain is being managed and treated effectively and appropriately.” 

With research showing that 10 per cent of people under-report their pain and those with dementia having almost a 50 per cent prevalence of suffering from chronic pain, it is thought the app could help flag issues earlier, preventing long-term conditions. 

It is estimated that 90,000 people in Scotland have dementia, and it is hoped that this breakthrough could mean a significant step forward in managing the disease. 

By providing a more accurate diagnosis, the app could also lift the burden for care staff, “improving job satisfaction”, and allowing for more staff-patient interaction time, said Gill. 

“This can enhance engagement with GPs and allied healthcare professionals, and ensure more collaborative, joined-up care and informed decision-making,” he added. 

Gill also signalled that there is a lack of “widespread” adoption of digital systems across the health sector and hopes that positive outcomes will lead the government to fund a broader rollout across Scotland. 

The spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said the device may eventually “support detection of pain in young children unable to communicate effectively”. 

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