New report confirms digital technology as the future for accurate pain assessment

The first ever consolidated review of global pain assessment methods and pain management tools used in UK care homes confirms the central place for digital technology in enabling accurate pain assessment and treatment.

The pioneering report: Modern Pain Assessment in Aged Care: Challenges, Guidelines and Practices, publishes today (Monday 28 June 2021) and is available free to UK care providers and care professionals.

It consolidates details of a unique study carried out by medtech company PainChek®, the world’s first intelligent pain assessment tool to use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse facial micro-expressions indicative of pain, to provide comprehensive advice and guidance on pain assessment and management, unique analysis of the common challenges for care providers and the strengths and weaknesses of pain assessment methods.

It also explores and explains how technology can be used to support gold standard pain management, as well as offering guidance on how and when pain assessments should be conducted.

Pete Shergill, PainChek® UK&I Country Director, explains: “This report is essential reading for the care and social care sectors. Digital systems are poised to supersede traditional paper-based systems across the social care environment, and pain management should be no exception, empowering carers with the tools and training needed to accurately assess pain and provide appropriate pain assessment and treatment to every individual, regardless of their age of ability to verbalise pain.

“The subjective nature of pain makes quantification difficult, yet many clinicians rely on observations and measures to assess and infer the pain experienced by other people. Consequently, pain often goes under-detected or under-treated, which can lead to Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms in Dementia (BPSD), inappropriate prescribing and decreased quality of life. Indeed, a UK Department of Health study found that of 180,000 antipsychotic prescriptions for people living with dementia prescribed in the UK, close to 80%, or 140,000 individuals, were inappropriate.”

Unlike other tools and paper-based systems that rely on subjective observations from the carer, the PainChek® app automates pain assessment using facial analysis technology and artificial intelligence: “This assesses micro-expressions on a person’s face that may go undetected by clinical staff,” explains Pete. “The app combines these with observations to identify the presence and severity of pain, and based on our research* confirms PainChek® is capable of detecting pain with 95% accuracy, 96% sensitivity and 91% specificity in those unable to verbalise pain.”

PainChek®’s unique technology was first developed – and since validated** – as a reliable instrument that enables care workers to identify and manage pain in people living with dementia or cognitive impairments.

Last month, its developers unveiled the latest upgrade which means PainChek can now be used with care home residents who can self-report their pain. The new version PainChek® Universal, features the Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) – an established standard used to document self-reported pain levels – within the one digital environment.

PainChek® Senior Research Scientist, Associate Professor Kreshnik Hoti, explains: “The Universal Pain Assessment Solution combines the unique PainChek® App with the NRS pain scale and PainChek® Analytics in one system, to deliver an inclusive, best practice pain assessment and management solution to UK care homes in a way that will drive objectivity, accuracy and consistency, as well as engage residents in their own care.

“By combining the benefits of the two pain scales into one universal pain assessment solution, which has a fully digital product, training and documentation system, pain assessment and clinical procedures and documentation are simplified and streamlined for care home staff and residents alike.”


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