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PainChek granted $5M for national aged care roll out


The Morrison Government has announced funding for a national trial of an Australian-developed pain recognition tool for aged care residents with dementia.

The $5 million initiative will provide for a universal one-year access license to facilitate the implementation of smart phone pain assessment and monitoring app PainChek to Australian residential aged care facilities with residents living with dementia.

The app automatically detects pain via artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology and is improving pain management in residential aged care according to early research findings and adopters, which include Dementia Support Australia.

Philip Daffas

The PainChek app, which now has regulatory clearance in Australia and Europe, originated at Curtin University and was further developed by Australian digital health company PainChek.

The contract is still being finalised, but the licensing deal is expected to include all providers and facilities with residents living with dementia, spokesperson for PainChek told Australian Ageing Agenda.

PainChek CEO Philip Daffas said this investment would trigger widespread and long-term use of the PainChek app.

“From a business perspective we have been focused on how best to facilitate national uptake. We have been making good progress by approaching aged care providers individually but this takes the implementation to a whole new level in double-quick time,” said Mr Daffas.

Ken Wyatt

Feedback from residential aged care facilities using PainChek has been positive and this funding will provide equality of access to all service providers and their residents with dementia, he said.

This Australian innovation aims to help some of Australia’s most vulnerable citizens, said Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt who announced the funding at Regents Garden Aged Care in Perth on Monday.

“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.”

Professor Jeff Hughes

PainChek’s chief scientific officer Professor Jeff Hughes said he was delighted that the government support was focused in the aged care setting.

Undiagnosed or poorly diagnosed pain is a huge issue among residents with dementia, said Professor Hughes, who led the early development of the app at Curtin University (read more here).

“This government funding is consistent with our extensive clinical study work which demonstrates the effectiveness and reliability of PainChek in identifying pain. The bulk of this work was conducted on people living with moderate to severe dementia,” he said.

Mr Daffas said the organisation was well-positioned to roll out PainChek rapidly through a range of training programs and partners and would be working hard to implement the tool as quickly as possible across the nominated trial sites.

“This program will help refine how the app gets integrated into every day clinical care in the residential aged care setting,” he said.

“The app effectively gives a voice to people who cannot verbalise their pain and we look forward to working with the government to expand our efforts to do just that.”

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