Scottish care homes to trial AI to detect pain among dementia sufferers

National regulator has approved plans for use of app – which is designed to analyse small facial expressions of those with cognitive challenges – to be tested in 15 facilities across Scotland

Scotland’s care regulator has announced trials of an AI pain-assessment tool will take place in 15 care homes across the country.

Launched in 2016, the PainChek app is intended to help of those with cognitive difficulties, such as people diagnosed with dementia, by analysing facial expressions to detect pain that might otherwise be missed by medical professionals.

Talking to, a spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: “We welcome the use of innovation and technology to help support people to experience the best possible care. This device should enable more appropriate use of medication and improved quality of life for care home residents.”

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A six-month pilot study reportedly delivered a 40% decrease in falls suffered by participants. Other results included an increase in the amount of completed pain assessments as well decrease in prescriptions of pain medication.

The second phase aims to gather more data on the tool’s effect on pain assessment and quality of care.

According to the governmental agency, the tests will have different settings, service types, user groups and locations. 

Also speaking to, Tandeep Gill, PainChek’s head of business development UK&I, said: “Using PainChek, carers can record meaningful pain data, allowing them to address the shortfalls in pain documentation and treat pain according to evidence-based pain management practices, as well as use the data to plan person-centred, long-term care. In addition, relatives can rest assured that their loved one is comfortable, and their pain is being managed and treated effectively and appropriately.”

It is estimated that 90,000 people in Scotland have dementia, and it is hoped that this breakthrough could mean a significant step forward in managing the disease.

By providing a more accurate diagnosis, the app could also lift the burden for care staff, “improving job satisfaction”, and allowing for more staff-patient interaction time, said Gill.

The spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said the device may eventually “support detection of pain in young children unable to communicate effectively”.

Sofia Villegas

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