World-first AI trial measures pain in dementia patients

A national trial of world-first artificial intelligence technology that determines the levels of pain a person with dementia is experiencing has been launched today in Perth.

The PainChek® app provides caregivers and health professionals with an efficient, smartphone-based system that applies artificial intelligence to determine a person’s pain using facial recognition analytics.

At a demonstration of the app today, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM announced a grant of $5 million for the invention to be further developed, acknowledging its ability to greatly assist people who have difficulty communicating their levels of pain.


“Accurately identifying the pain felt by people who have communication challenges can be difficult and with more than 50 per cent of residents in aged care homes living with dementia, there is a widespread risk of under-treated pain,” Mr Wyatt said.

PainChek® CEO Philip Daffas said the funding would allow broader
application of the app, to strengthen analysis of its effectiveness.

“This is welcome, given the significant benefits being reported at the dozens of residential aged care centres that already use PainChek®,” Mr Daffas said.

“It will provide equality of access to all residential aged care homes and their residents living with dementia and fits with our extensive clinical studies which have been conducted on people living with moderate to severe dementia.

“This will help refine how the app can be integrated into everyday clinical care, where PainChek® effectively gives a voice to people who cannot verbalise their pain.”

Unidentified pain can contribute to behavioural and psychological symptoms and incorrect prescription of antipsychotic medication.

The PainChek® app originated at Western Australia’s Curtin University and was then further developed by listed Australian digital health company PainChek Ltd. It has regulatory clearance in both Australia and Europe.

Minister Wyatt said the trial will complement reforms previously announced to improve medication management and provide a record boost to dementia prevention, treatment and support.

“Under the Medical Research Future Fund, our Government is providing $185 million over the next decade to establish a Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission, building on our five-year, $200 million Boosting Dementia Research initiative,” Mr Wyatt said.

“Our Government’s strong economic management ensures continued record investment in vital health and aged care initiatives like these.”

The 2019-20 Budget included an investment of $7.7 million to reduce the misuse of medicines in residential aged care.

This investment includes the establishment of a new unit of clinical pharmacists within the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission which will work directly with residential aged care providers to drive best practice use of medicines. 

This is in addition to the Morrison Government’s support for the Pain in Residential Aged Care Facilities: Management Strategies publication launched early this year to help Australia’s aged care workforce to identify, assess and manage pain felt by people in their care.

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