Australian developer ePAT Technologies has partnered with Dementia Support Australia for a pilot that will see 150 expert consultants across Australia using its new pain recognition app with up to 5,000 people with dementia each year.
Dementia Support Australia (DSA) is the national government-funded service led by HammondCare that operates the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and Severe Behaviour Response Teams for the aged care sector.
As previously reported, the now TGA-approved pain assessment app that began its development at Curtin University several years ago, aims to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of pain and has specific application for people with dementia who have challenges with verbal communication.
Called PainChek, the app is a secure and validated tool that uses artificial intelligence and smartphone technology to analyse facial expressions and pain levels in real time.
Associate Professor Colm Cunningham, who is director of HammondCare’s Dementia Centre, said when a non-verbal person with dementia was in pain, it could be sometimes displayed in frustration or by behaviour that was out of character.
“This technology allows consultants, who have been called to assist someone with dementia, to understand the cause of a perceived severe behaviour, enabling them to quickly identify if that person is in pain,” Associate Professor Cunningham said.
Pain for people living with dementia can often go undetected or under-treated, he said.
“Dementia Services Australia estimates that more than 70 per cent of its clients are experiencing under-treated or undiagnosed pain, which impacts their quality of life significantly,” said Associate Professor Cunningham.
DSA will trial the app in DBMAS and SBRT services in a pilot program that aims to test whether the app is an appropriate and effective tool for staff and to feedback to the developers.
“Our intention through trialling is to provide feedback to improve language in the app. Secondly, it is about how to use the app to support staff; it’s an additional tool, not a replacement for staff,” Associate Professor Cunningham told Australian Ageing Agenda.
ePAT CEO Philip Daffas welcomed the opportunity to work with the DSA team to improve the quality of life for people with dementia in Australia.
“We believe this is a unique combination of two Australian organisations working together to achieve a common goal in dementia,” he said.
A peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in July showed that PainChek was a valid and reliable pain assessment tool for people with moderate to severe dementia, who could no longer self-report their pain.
ePAT scientific officer Mustafa Atee showcased the app and reported on the study’s findings at this week’s national dementia conference in Melbourne.
“We believe this study is the first time a pain assessment tool using automated facial recognition technology and a smart device to assess people with dementia has been clinically validated in the residential aged care setting,” Mr Atee said.
It is expected that PainChek will be in use across DSA by early 2018.
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