Institute of Information and Communication Technologies (ITACA)


A New App Helps Assess Pain Levels in Emergency Department Visitors and Contributes to Improved Diagnosis and Care

A team from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and professionals specializing in pain and emergency care at the General Hospital of Valencia have developed Painkey. This new app assists in assessing, through artificial intelligence techniques, the pain level in individuals visiting emergency services, thereby speeding up and facilitating their diagnosis.

Currently, three out of every four patients visiting emergency services do so because of pain, and they often exhibit higher return rates. Between 40% and 50% of these patients use the service several times a year.

«Painkey is capable of distinguishing between reasons for alarm or severity, based on types of pain, and differentiating episodes of acute pain from chronic pain. It also can identify patients with exacerbated chronic pain who frequently visit the Emergency Department. Thus, it contributes to improving both patient care and the operation of emergency services,» says Dolores López Alarcón, an anesthetist and clinical head of the Pain Unit at the General Hospital and promoter of the Painkey project.

Through an initial questionnaire, Painkey allows for a comprehensive assessment of the pain of patients who visit the Emergency Department for this reason. This data is incorporated into the patient’s medical history, and the system proposes a pathway based on the urgency, frailty or risk of the patient suffering an adverse event, and the complexity of each case.

In this way, the app assists in assessing pain before triage. This leads to an increase in quality and safety because it will provide essential information that, on the one hand, will send an alert to the triage so that the nurse can prioritize the patient and on the other hand, will assist the physician during the care process.

«Painkey can be customized to organize emergency care by care pathways, so that it is adapted to the needs of each patient. Moreover, it will allow us to have an innovative pain assessment, because we will have a total assessment that can help us prevent chronicity or detect patients at risk of suffering chronic pain,» explains Dolores López.

For her part, Gema Ibáñez Sánchez, an engineer from the health and well-being technologies group (SABIEN) of the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies (ITACA) at the UPV, explains that this application is capable of suggesting a specific care pathway through the analysis of data that combines process mining with a mobile application.

«We are now in the first phase in which the application will be piloted in the hospital for two months, allowing us to ensure that everything is functioning correctly. From there, we will start a second phase that will implement the pathways gradually,» adds Ángeles Celda, a nurse in the Emergency Department.

Thus, the tool will be implemented to assess patients’ pain in the hospital’s Emergency Department. The goal is to extend it to health centers that refer patients with pain to this service, and even to those who arrive with an emergency outside of health centers and are attended to by mobile medical services.

Painkey was the winner of the Grünenthal Challenge at the VI Health Hackathon. Its development also involved Jesús Mandingorra Giménez, Fernando Alfonso Ríos, Eva Mateo Rodríguez, and Ricardo Rubini from the General Hospital of Valencia, and Carlos Fernández Llatas, also from the ITACA-SABIEN group of the Universitat Politècnica de València.

Source: UPV’s Communication Area

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