Smart app identifies pain

Tuesday, 2nd May, 2017

FACE TIME - Staff and residents at Brightwater residential aged care tested out the pain facial recognition app.

A SMARTPHONE facial recognition app that can tell if a person is in pain has been on show to medical experts in South Australia.

The Electronic Pain Assessment Tool (ePAT) app - which recognises when people who can't communicate verbally, such as people with dementia, are experiencing pain - was demonstrated to pain specialists at the annual Australian Pain Society conference in Adelaide.

The app was developed by researchers in WA and works by taking a 10-second video of the patient's face and analysing it real-time for micro-expressions that indicate the presence of pain.

Professor Jeff Hughes from Curtin University, who was one of the researchers behind the project, together with PhD candidate Mustafa Atee, said the app had already be trialled on patients with moderate to severe dementia.

He said it could also be used for anyone who can't communicate, from people with neurological disease to babies.

WA-based not-for-profit aged care and disability organisation Brightwater worked with Professor Hughes and Dr Atee, trailing the ePAT with residents.

"We know that even without words or actions people's faces often tell us so much, so combined with the other information collected in the app, it made perfect sense to us to factor that into a pain assessment," said Brightwater chief executive Jennifer Lawrence.

"The trial has given us another 'tool in the toolbox' in terms of being able to promote wellbeing and comfort."

At the conference in April, Dr Atee updated delegates on how the app could be used with nursing home residents and gave live demonstrations.

ePAT managing director Philip Daffas said the technology was gathering pace.

"We're pleased to be taking such an active part at the Australian Pain Society conference, which presents a major opportunity to target industry professionals, who we envision will be active users of our app," he said.

The app was one of 11 projects developed through the CSIRO's innovation program ON Accelerator last year.

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