PainChek: digital pain assessment tool

Page last updated: 15 September 2023

PainChek is a digital pain assessment tool.

The issue

Orchard had noticed high numbers of antipsychotic medicines being prescribed to people living with dementia. There appeared to be little consideration of why these people were distressed and communicating this through behaviour. Orchard was convinced pain was playing a key factor in these distress responses – not because the person had a diagnosis of dementia.

The innovation

Orchard adopted the PainChek app in 2021 to support their dementia promise framework. They worked with the PainChek team and ran a pilot with the app. They were one of the first care providers to use this solution in the UK.

It was originally launched it in one of their specialist dementia care communities, but is now in all of their 23 homes.

The impact on people using services

There has been an increase in available pain relief, and a decrease in conflict-related safeguarding referrals. There is increased time available for colleagues and a reduction in polypharmacy. There has been a 10% decrease in antipsychotic medicine use across all 23 homes, promoting a greater quality of life.

People now have effective pain management plans. Orchard have also been able to ensure distress plans are in place which firstly considers if pain is the cause.

The PainChek app has been pivotal to our dementia promise and improving the overall wellbeing of many of the residents living in our homes.

Risks and mitigations

Orchard worked with the PainChek team prior and post launch. Orchard’s Head of Dementia based herself at the home for several months to ensure support was provided and the technology was truly embedded. There was a project plan that PainChek supported, including weekly calls, online and face to face (remote) training. There was planned time for training and coaching.

Engaging with staff and people who use services

Some teams were a little apprehensive of AI enabled technology but Orchard were already using a digital care management system which the app links into, so that enabled them to discuss the benefits – such as seeing the pain score in individual notes.

Orchard had discussions with families and Multi-Disciplinary Teams. It was also explained to the person being assessed. Their feedback was not initially recorded implemented but this is now being added to resident’s feedback section in a new electronic audit and feedback system.

Service types where this could be useful

Orchard is a residential adult social care setting but could be adopted in any setting where people who have difficulty communicating are receiving treatment.

Why we have shared this

This allows providers to better manage pain for people with cognitive impairment, or anyone who has difficulty communicating.

Capturing innovation to accelerate improvement

Contact details for this innovation

Cheryl Baird, Director of Quality and Care (
Orchard Care Homes