A$5M grant for national trial of PainChek pain recognition app

With the funding, more than 1,000 Residential Aged Care Providers in Australia and their 100,000 residents living with dementia will be able to use a licensed version of the PainChek app for a year.
By Dean Koh
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Screengrab of the PainChek app.

The federal government of Australia recently announced that it will invest A$5M to facilitate the implementation of PainChek’s pain recognition app in Australian residential aged care centres (RAC’s).

The PainChek app was originally conceived at Western Australia’s Curtin University and further developed by listed Australian digital health company PainChek Ltd. It provides caregivers and health professionals with an efficient, smartphone-based system that applies AI to determine a person’s pain using facial recognition analytics. PainChek has received the CE Mark and TGA clearance as a Class 1 Medical Device in Australia.

With the funding, more than 1,000 Residential Aged Care Providers in Australia and their 100,000 residents living with dementia will be able to use a licensed version of the PainChek app for a year.

What’s the trend

According to the WHO, there are around 50 million people with dementia worldwide and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. The total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050. There is no treatment currently available to cure dementia or to alter its progressive course. Numerous new treatments are being investigated in various stages of clinical trials.

In the US, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) are conducting a clinical trial that explores whether regular tech-enabled conversations might fend off dementia or other cognitive conditions related to cognitive decline among socially isolated seniors, according to a recent Mobihealth News article.

Dementia-focused tech companies such as Scottsdale, Arizona-headquartered Smart Brain Aging offers services and an app called Brain U Lite that provides consumers with cognitive tasks that when paired with exercise have, according to the company, been proven to delay the progression of dementia and limit its negative impact.

In Singapore, a Dementia Friends app was launched last October, which allows users to easily access information about dementia, receive updates on upcoming events on caregiving, and use it to search for loved ones who have lost their way home.

On the record

“This is Australian innovation to help some of our most vulnerable Australians,” said Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM in a statement.

“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.”

PainChek CEO Philip Daffas said, “This program will help refine how the app gets integrated into every day clinical care in the aged residential setting. PainChek is a uniquely Australian invention being progressed by an Australian leader in digital health innovation. 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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