By Suzanne McKenzie | Posted: Sunday August 25, 2019
You could be forgiven for thinking Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be something beamed straight out of the latest Star Wars movie or broadcast live in last night’s 6 O’clock News headlines. But in a New Zealand first, Invercargill’s very own leading aged-care facility, Peacehaven Village, is trialling a smart phone app which could revolutionise pain management and dramatically improve quality of life for Enlivens’ aged-care residents.
The new PainChek App uses smartphone and tablet cameras to scan a person’s face, which is then analysed in real time using artificial intelligence and facial recognition software to detect the presence of facial micro-expressions which are indicative of the presence of pain.
The results are then combined with other accepted indicators of pain such as vocalisations, behaviours, activities and movements, to provide a total pain score.
Peacehaven Manager Carol Riddle said Enliven staff were extremely excited to have been given the opportunity to trial the app - an approved medical device – which was especially relevant to their area of aged-care, given the technology offered those people not able to verbalise their pain, a voice.
“The research shows us that pain often goes unrecognised and undertreated in people with communication difficulties, or those living with dementia,” said Carol.
“They can present with disruptive or aggressive behaviours, when in actual fact what they are experiencing, is pain.”
“With this app, we can unobtrusively carry out a clinical pain assessment in just a few minutes and even in circumstances when a patient is resting.”
Having a speedy, easy-to-use and reproducible pain assessment and monitoring tool readily available at the point of care is highly valued because it removes subjectivity and improves the appropriateness and accuracy of pain treatments.
Carol believed the trial would greatly empower all nursing staff and clinical carers, but would especially afford young interns, or aged-care workers, for whom English is a second language, much greater confidence in making accurate pain assessments, dispensing and monitoring the effectiveness of prescribed analgesics and other pain medication.
“While we’ll obviously review everything at the end of the trial period, I can say, the technology is looking very promising … We’ve had a significant increase in the number of pain assessments completed by staff and this has facilitated access to appropriate treatment for residents more quickly,” said Carol.
“You know it’s a win-win situation when you’re embracing new technology which helps deliver timely and better client care, and it’s also providing your staff, as carers, with an easier and improved work environment.”
If deemed successful at the close of the two-month trial, Carol envisioned the Painchek App being rolled out to all Enliven residential care homes in the region.
PainChek is an important part of the Procura Clinical Management System which integrates Pain Management, Wound Management and Medication Management into a holistic clinical care management solution.
This integration takes pain management to the new level. Once a pain assessment using Painchek has been made, a chart is instantly created in Procura. A series of automated processes then ensure that the proper medication is administered, reviewed and managed – the automated processes can even instigate a GP consultation, if warranted. A resident’s pain trends are successively recorded and monitored over time to optimise this process and ensure the best outcomes for the resident/patient.
“The feedback we are getting from Enliven Southland is overwhelmingly positive. Nursing staff are loving the PainChek APP that integrates with our Procura Clinical Care software to address pain for people living in aged care,” said Renee Watson, Procura Clinical Solution Delivery Manager, in Australia.
“Once again, this puts Enliven firmly in the driving seat for innovation … We are excited to be part of the implementation of a tool that will improve outcomes for their residents.”