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Pain assessment app trialled in Scotland’s care homes

by Julie Griffiths
16 October 2023

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An app that can assess pain levels by using facial analysis is to be trialled in 15 care homes across Scotland and involve GP practices.

PainChek is supported by AI to analyse the faces of patients who struggle to communicate their pain level by looking for micro-expressions of pain.  It is particularly useful for patients who have limited or no ability to report their pain levels, such as those with dementia.

Rollout of the technology has been supported by Scotland’s Care Inspectorate, which regulates and inspects care services.

It is hoped the app will reduce guesswork by providing more objective pain assessment results to help GPs make better informed prescribing decisions around pain management. Another benefit is enabling GPs to monitor care home residents more easily – including remote monitoring – so they can review and adjust pain management plans.

In addition, by providing digital rather than paper-based documentation of pain levels the aim is for communication between care teams and GPs to be improved, boosting collaboration in pain management. 

The app has already been trialled in a handful of Scotland’s care homes. It has been associated with an increase in the number of pain assessments completed, more appropriate use of pain medication plus a general reduction in the prescribed rate of pain medication.

In its 2023/24 quality improvement plan, the Care Inspectorate signalled its intentions to expand the use of PainChek in a phase two trial across Scotland.

This will start in 15 services from November 2023 and run for a maximum of 12 months. As part of the project, general practice within the location of all 15 services will be involved. 

The app is available on smartphone and tablets and combines an AI pain assessment tool with the Numerical Rating Scale (NRS).