Australia’s largest child health research centre, Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) is set to take part in a trial of a phone-based automated pain analysis tool to foster better care for non-verbal infants.
The adult version of the up from the publicly-listed company PainChek is already being deployed across the nation’s aged care sector, thanks in part to a $5 million boost from the federal government.
PainChek’s app uses neural network-based facial recognition technology to detect minute changes in a patient’s expression to accurately indicate the level of pain they’re experiencing - something that can be hard to determine in adults with degenerative conditions like dementia or in young children.
Now the clinical trial at MCRI is set to evaluate just how effective the technology is for use with children with a dedicated Infants App, comparing PainChek’s results with data obtained using two other commonly-used observational children’s pain assessment tools.
Around 100 infants who are already undergoing painful procedures within emergency departments will partake in the trial, and will be examined using the Face, Legs Activity Cris and Consolability (FLACC) scale, and the Modified Behaviour Pain Scale (MBPS).
The ‘PainFaces’ trial will be led by MCRI’s professor Franz Babl and associate professor Di Crellin, who recently evaluated the validity of the MBPS and FLACC scales, at the the Melbourne Royal Children’s emergency department.
If successful, automated pain analysis could increase the accuracy of pain diagnosis and lead to improved patient outcomes.
In non-verbal patients, like those with dementia or kids too young to articulate their feelings, undiagnosed pain (or improperly diagnosed pain severity) may be mistaken for other medical issues that lead to months or years of unnecessary and ineffective treatment while the underlying cause goes untreated.
For children, that would waste and misdirect resources during their critical years of development.
PainChek said in a notice to its shareholders it expects the PainFaces trial to begin in the coming days. Its app is already in use in more than 80 aged care facilities across Australia.