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ePAT App in use. Photo: ePAT

App reliable detector of pain in people with dementia: study

The ePAT App six domains of pain assessment that calculated a pain severity score. Photo: ePAT

An app that assesses pain among people with dementia stacks up against existing pain scales, new research has found.

The study, recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, tested the validity and reliability of the electronic pain assessment tool (ePAT) in people with moderate to severe dementia.

Forty aged care residents aged over 60 with moderate to severe dementia were recruited for the study, which assessed the psychometric properties of ePAT compared to the Abbey Pain Scale. The research team recorded and analysed 353 paired pain assessments and found strong positive correlation between the two tools.

Pain is very common among people with dementia but as the disease progresses they often lose their ability to communicate verbally, so the pain goes undetected, said co-author professor Jeff Hughes from Curtin University. “Being able to show the validity and reliability of an app used on a smartphone is an important step toward the adoption of more convenient technologies to derive accurate pain assessments,” said Hughes.

The app uses cameras in smartphones and tablets to capture a brief video of an individual with dementia, which is analysed using facial recognition software to detect the presence of facial micro-expressions that are indicative of the presence of pain. The tool then combines this information with other pain indicators, such as vocalisations, behaviours and movements, to generate a pain severity score.

ePAT Technologies, the company behind the tool, said it is intended to be used in the first instance to detect and measure a person’s pain, and then further measurements can be used to monitor the effectiveness of pain management provided to the person.

The app was developed by Curtin University researchers, as previously reported by Aged Care Insite.

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