Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is set to become the first UK hospital to trial an AI-powered pain assessment tool, designed to help patients determine their level of pain if they’re unable to reliable self-report – such as those living with dementia.

The PainChek app is a regulatory-cleared medical device that can be installed on a smartphone or tablet. It works by analysing micro-facial expressions indicative of pain. This allows carers to identify when a patient is experiencing pain, quantify the severity and monitor the impact of treatments, to optimise and evidence overall quality of care.

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is now embarking on a 12-week trial as part of a wider global partnership with InterSystems. The trial will help determine PainChek’s viability as an intervention for healthcare providers, assess its interpretability and see how easily it can be applied in a hospital setting within time constraints.

At the end of the summer this year, the company reported a 50% year-on-year increase in the number of beds in UK residential care homes using the PainChek technology.

PainChek CEO Philip Daffas said: “Poorly managed pain can lead to patient distress and impact the patient’s quality of life, subsequently increasing the length of the patient’s stay, impacting hospital costs and resources, and making patient readmission more likely.

“PainChek’s AI-powered pain assessment tool alleviates those challenges by enabling fast, accurate pain assessment in patients unable to communicate their pain, those who can, and those who fluctuate between the two.

The technology aims to empower healthcare practitioners, placing a medical device in their pockets that provides them with a valid, reliable, and accurate means of assessing pain, without having to rely on verbal communication or traditional observational pain assessment tools.”

The pilot at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary will also validate a seamless integration with electronic medical record (EMR) systems. This secure data sharing is ideal for fast-paced hospital environments, and helps support efficient patient care.

Following the trial, it will be assessed whether training of PainCheck is effective enough to enable all pain assessors to use the technology and understand the challenges and triggers of pain. A feasibility questionnaire will help measure the impact the technology has on clinical decision making.

In August, PainChek reported a 150% year-on-year increase in the number of beds in UK residential care homes using the PainChek technology.