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2 Oct 2023

New AI resource aims to help people living with persistent pain

A new interactive resource developed using AI technology aims to help people self-manage their persistent pain.

Academics from Teesside University’s Centre for Rehabilitation have been working alongside artificial intelligence (AI) provider StoryFile to develop a fully interactive digital version of pain management expert Pete Moore.

The project has been supported by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria (NENC).

Described by StoryFile as a ‘conversational video’, AI Pete can interact with viewers, answer questions about persistent pain and how it can be managed, and share his first-hand experiences of living with it.

Pete was filmed answering over 300 questions in the rigorous interview stage of the development process. The AI recognises questions from viewers and plays the relevant response in real time, as in an ordinary discussion.

It has the potential to help millions of people living with persistent pain to access support, discover new pain management techniques and improve their quality of life.

Pete, 69, from Essex, worked as a Senior Trainer in the NHS Expert Patient Programme. He has been living with persistent pain for more than 20 years and was named a Pain Champion UK in recognition of his efforts to drive positive change.

“I’m fed up with talking about my pain,” Pete smiled. “Now AI Pete can do it for me.

“Living with persistent pain can feel very isolating, but this resource provides around-the-clock access to information, advice and support whenever it is needed, and that is a game changer.

“I know how much a tool like this would have helped me back in the day, so I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved.”

The project has been incorporated into the Pain Toolkit, a resource developed by Pete with useful guidance around persistent pain and self-management which is used worldwide by patients and medical professionals alike.

People can ask AI Pete to explain more about the different tools in the Pain Toolkit, which include patience, planning, relaxation and exercise.

Denis Martin, Professor of Rehabilitation and Director of the Centre for Rehabilitation at Teesside University, who led the project, said: “Teesside University is committed to transforming lives and leads by example when it comes to showing how innovative technologies can be applied to tackling real-world issues.

“There are millions of people out there with persistent pain who will be able to take control of that aspect of their lives by engaging in a conversation like never before.

“It would be lovely for each and every one of them to have personal contact with Pete, but it is not feasible. So, we’re using cutting-edge technology to find a way to bring Pete and his expert advice on self-management techniques to them.

“While it is very important for patients to get guidance and information from medical professionals, we acknowledge the undeniable benefits which they get from hearing from those with lived experiences of persistent pain as well. That’s where AI Pete comes in.”

Pete added: “Self-management is a partnership between a healthcare worker and patient, and it can be hugely beneficial.

“But healthcare professionals aren’t often given the opportunity to focus on the idea of self-management during their training. This new resource and the Pain Toolkit are raising awareness around the positive potential of self-management in all aspects of healthcare.”

Professor Martin worked with fellow Teesside University academics Professor Cormac Ryan, NIHR ARC NENC Research Fellow Dr Sophie Suri and Dr Andrew Graham on the project.

The project has been delivered with support from the EU Interreg North-West Europe VR4Rehab project and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria (NENC).