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New facial recognition technology helps determine dementia pain

Photo: Technology helps determine dementia pain
Facial recognition technology developed in Australia will help carers manage the pain of dementia patients who struggle to communicate.

New facial recognition technology developed in Australia will help medical staff manage the pain of dementia patients who struggle to communicate.

The PainChek app runs on smartphones or tablets and uses artificial intelligence to analyse facial expressions to assess pain levels.

The software captures the information it needs in just three seconds and uses standardised pain scales but can be tailored to include patient-specific information such as medication.

"Pain for people living with dementia may often go undetected or under-treated," Associate Professor Colm Cunningham, of Dementia Support Australia, told AAP.
Dementia sufferers often cannot communicate and some behaviour, such as pushing someone away or swearing, could be misinterpreted, he said.

"This is a new platform, it's easy to use and it helps build up a picture over time for the patient," Prof Cunningham said.

The app allows healthcare professionals to collect data and assess patient needs to create a tailored care plan.

The technology gets a thumbs up from Alzheimer's Australia national ambassador Sue Pieters-Hawke.

"I am hopeful this app can play a role in providing proper diagnosis and management of pain and contribute to reducing the frequent misattribution of so-called 'behaviours' to people suffering from our ignorance," she said.

The app will be piloted in Western Australia and South Australia before being introduced across the Dementia Support Australia network by early 2018.

HOW IT WORKS:

* Cameras in smartphones and tablets capture a three-second video of the face.
* Facial recognition software detects "micro-expressions" around the forehead, eyes, nose and mouth.
* Differentiates between pain and annoyance.
* Facial data combines with other pain indicators including vocals, behaviour and movement.
* Resulting pain score: no pain, mild pain, moderate pain, severe pain.

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