Australian medical device company PainChek (ASX: PCK) has reported a strong performance for the March quarter with much of its growth being driven by the country’s residential aged care sector.
PainChek’s smartphone-based pain assessment technology was contracted to 49,811 residential aged care and dementia-specific beds during the quarter, representing a 56% increase on the 32,023 recorded for the three months to 31 December 2019.
The federal government is funding a subset of the total approved contracted beds under a $5 million grant agreement announced last month whereby the use of PainChek will be trialled in residential aged care facilities for people living with dementia or cognitive impairment.
The initiative is designed to give all residents living with dementia access to PainChek’s digital health technology so they can receive the best care.
It makes provision for a universal PainChek access licence for the more than 1,000 residential aged care providers in Australia and 100,000 residents living with dementia for a one-year period.
During the quarter, the company signed 76 new clients to the PainChek trial and three existing clients for an additional 311 beds, also under the trial.
These clients comprise a total of 207 residential aged care centres and 17,760 beds.
The agreements are for up to three years each, using the government-funded dementia bed program for the first year and PainChek’s standard approved bed terms for the additional years.
During March, PainChek also met the initial grant milestone of 25,000 bed licences which triggered the government’s contractual trial payment of $1.25 million, in addition to subscription revenues of approximately $215,000 over the quarter.
The payment follows an initial $500,000 payment under the trial received in December.
Both amounts have been recognised as grant revenue in the month of receipt.
Painchek said COVID-19 had limited the ability of residential aged care facilities to take on new projects, as lockdowns had been activated to protect vulnerable patients and caregivers.
The situation has directly impacted the government’s dementia bed trial.
“During discussions with the Department of Health, we agreed that the pandemic is likely to have a three to six month impact on the PainChek project in Australia, hence the department has agreed to extend it by seven months to end May 2021,” the company said.
“We have also been engaging with our aged care clients to reiterate how PainChek can help protect vulnerable residents and carers during these times.”
The company said it would aim to maintain a level of sales and implementation momentum during the next six months which fits with the needs of aged care.
“We believe our digital technology delivery capabilities will provide the basis of a revised business model which will enable us to deliver our product more cost-effectively to the market post-pandemic, while meeting any future requirements for increased safety and security,” it said.
PainChek has continued its progress towards de novo regulatory clearance by the US Food and Drug Authority for its adult dementia app in that market.
The company submitted a supplement to its initial application seeking feedback on planned human factors validation testing and clinical trials protocols developed by research partners Healthcare Human Factors and Donawa Lifesciences.
“We already have [Australian] Therapeutic Goods Administration and [European] CE mark clearance, and with FDA clearance we will effectively have access to more than 70% of the global medical device market,” the company said.
Home care market
The company also recently commenced trialling of its Shared Care app at a number of pilot sites within the Australian home care market including an international broker of home care services in Victoria as well as two existing aged care clients, both of which rank among Australia’s 20 largest home care providers.
Shared Care allows carers and family members to conduct pain assessments in the home, with the results available for viewing online by the patient’s case manager or healthcare professional.
PainChek said the app could potentially result in faster and more cost-effective pain assessments.
The company has formed a working team to manage the trial and “build a sustainable market entry strategy”.
PainChek uses artificial intelligence to assess and score pain levels in real time and update medical records in the cloud.
The smartphone-based technology records videos of a person’s facial micro-expressions, analysing and recording the images which indicate pain.
The assessment is combined with caregiver observations of pain-related behaviours to calculate an overall pain score which can be stored to allow for long-term monitoring of medications and treatment.
PainChek is being rolled out globally in two phases – for adults unable to effectively verbalise their pain such as people with dementia; and for children who have not yet learned to speak.
The adult version of the app has become a proven and accurate pain assessment system in multiple markets with more than 100,000 clinical assessments completed to date.
The company said regular pain assessments are of even greater importance for the vulnerable during COVID-19, as chronic pain may be associated with an impaired immune system.