This year on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, PainChek and Nulsen Group officially commenced a 6-month trial of the PainChek® digital pain assessment tool on people with intellectual, developmental, or other disabilities with limited ability to communicate their pain.

Together, we hope to increase access to accurate pain assessment and treatment, as well as continuing to improve quality of life and quality of care for some of the most vulnerable in Australia.

Nulsen Group and PainChek trial on Channel 10

The challenges of pain assessment among people with disability

In Australia, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides information, funding, support, and connections to community services for people with disability. As of 1 July 2020, there were 392,000 active NDIS participants of which approximately 62,000 were children aged from 0 to 6 years. Within the next three years, it is expected that the NDIS will provide more than $22 billion in funding a year to an estimated 500,000 Australians who have permanent and significant disability.

Those living with a disability have some of the highest rates of chronic pain in our community. According to Painaustralia, one in four people with a profound disability experience severe pain, and two in three people with a spinal cord injury affected by ongoing pain.

There are significant challenges in pain assessment and management for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and these differ greatly from older people or those living with dementia. For those living with conditions associated with physical, learning, language, behavioural, and/or intellectual impairment, chronic pain can be a common and debilitating secondary condition that can compromise both functional abilities and quality of life.

Whilst self-reporting is commonly used in people with disability, the ability of these individuals to verbalise their pain may be limited or absent, depending on the severity of their condition. As a result, pain may go untreated or mistreated, which is particularly concerning as those living with disabilities are more at risk of developing drug-related side effects. In addition, treatments that are appropriate for other populations may exacerbate pain in people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

PainChek plays an important part in ensuring that people with a disability who are unable to express their pain do not continue to suffer in silence.

Nulsen Group and PainChek trial on Channel 7 Perth

Giving a voice to people with disability who cannot verbalise their pain

Despite the fact that many individuals with disability suffer from chronic pain, a research paper published in PAIN Reports found that there is little evidence that pain is being better assessed or managed clinically. As a result, pain assessment is often conducted based on subjective observation and can go undetected or untreated, which may result in the inappropriate prescription of medication.

PainChek® empowers support workers and clinicians to accurately detect pain in people with disabilities using AI and facial recognition technology. By assessing and mapping pain-related indicators across six domains, PainChek provides carers with a fast and reliable tool to improve the detection of pain in people with complex disabilities.

Partnering with Nulsen Group to improve quality of care and quality of life for individuals with disabilities

As a leading disability and community services provider at the forefront of innovation, Nulsen Group has always embraced human-centric technologies to provide better outcomes for people with complex needs.

In an Australian-first trial, PainChek has partnered with Nulsen Group to roll out our digital pain assessment tool to 50 residents across five shared residential homes. The trial will allow both partners to evaluate PainChek®’s ability to improve pain assessment in individuals with complex disabilities, particularly when a change of behaviour is detected or an individual is visibly distressed.

“PainChek® has already given a voice to so many older Australians in aged care who have been living in pain who have previously not been able to verbalise their pain.

We are now pleased that Nulsen has taken the lead to provide the same opportunity within the disability sector. PainChek® will support Nulsen in this trial to better assess and treat pain for these vulnerable people.
On International Day of People with Disability we are proud to partner with Nulsen Group and help improve pain assessment for those living in care.”

– Philip Daffas, PainChek CEO

“The PainChek® trial is consistent with our ethos of embracing human-centric technologies which can provide better outcomes for people with complex needs in our care.

Pain management is particularly challenging for people with complex disabilities, and it is exciting that an Australian-based company is harnessing smartphone and cloud technology to support vulnerable people in our community.

The trial will be an opportunity for PainChek® to test its ability to improve the detection of pain in individuals with complex disabilities. This will be particularly helpful when there is notable behavioural change, or an individual is showing signs of distress. While this is very much in the testing phase for Nulsen Group, PainChek® has been successfully used in aged-care homes.”

– Gordon Trewern, Nulsen Group CEO

Jeff and Gordon smiling touching elbows in a courtyard
Jeff Hughes, Chief Scientific Officer at PainChek (L) and Gordon Trewern CEO at Nulsen Group (R)

PainChek® will be used by nurses, allied health professionals, management and support workers across the five Nulsen Group homes. The success of the trial will be evaluated by an independent third-party, based on a number of quantitative and qualitative factors.

Following the outcomes of the 6-month trial, PainChek will have the opportunity to expand the use of the digital pain assessment tool across the Nulsen Group, as well as other disability services providers in Australia and overseas.

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